Special Unit (SU): The black sheep of CBI?

This branch is the black sheep of CBI. This is the branch which is tasked with the tapping of the phone calls, secret surveillance, gathering of intelligence (Intelligence= secret information) and vigilance. This branch also acts towards the collection of sensitive actionable information, feeding the information during the live busting operation on for e.g. fake currency notes. This branch is all about secrets and is the epitome of the image people generally associate with RAW/IB/CBI.

I called this branch black sheep because it is different from the rest of the CBI. Its office is in a different building altogether at a distance of 6 kilometers from CBI Headquarters, New Delhi. This branch does not have any connection with any court whatsoever. It means the document handling in this branch is pretty less and this branch is not answerable to any court as it is hidden from the purview of the courts. The timings in this branch are uncertain therefore this branch is a bit unsuitable for women. A sub-inspector posted in this branch does not have to visit courts unlike the sub-inspectors posted in other branches.

Furthermore, this branch works on intelligent inputs and sometimes taps the phone calls of various persons including the employees of the CBI. While I worked in CBI for about two and a half years, I had seen 3 different instances wherein CBI had trapped its own officials for corruption. CBI is pretty serious about the integrity of its employees. But don’t be too alarmed, if you are innocent, you are of no interest to anybody and they won’t tap your phone. Furthermore, the population of the country is 125 crores while the strength of SU ranges from 20-25 people max. So there is an upper limit to the no. of phones they can tap at a time.

Read What are different branches of CBI and what is the role of Sub-Inspector in each of them.

Special unit (SU): Vigilance and surveillance in CBI
Special unit officials cannot disclose their identity.

A sub-Inspector posted in this branch is tasked with keeping watch over a potential suspect. For e.g. in the arrest case of MD of the syndicate bank in 2015, some of the officials of SU had to keep watch over his house for 7 days before they could affect an arrest. The procedure is same, a sub-inspector posted in this branch should have his integrity above suspicion and he must be a street-smart kid. Street smart because he may have to stand in the sweltering sun from 7 am to 9 pm keeping an eye over a single house/building/office and at the same time, he has to avoid the inquisitive and suspicious eyes of neighbors/ paan wallah/chai wallah etc.

Furthermore, a sub-Inspector of this branch cannot carry his identity card with him lest he is caught and the operation goes bust. During the watch, if he is caught by civilians, he is on his own. He cannot claim any association with CBI in front of them. Once the police is called and he is handed over by the civilians to the police, he can safely disclose his identity but not his purpose or target of the watch. His identity is generally sufficient for local police and they release the SI without much hassle.

However, all is not gold in this branch. The work here is very hectic. Listening to the long hours of phone calls isn’t a pleasure either. Ennui takes over when out of a 2-hour long phone call, one has to extract sensitive information of 30 seconds. The clip is to be listened very attentively and again and again. This ordeal amplifies when there is a noise in the phone call or when the language of the speakers is different from yours. If you speak Hindi and English, a conversation in Bengali is going to be troublesome.

Read: Which is the best job among all the posts offered by SSC?

The problem is further magnified when you have to make a transcript of the entire call. A 15-minute call leads to a transcript of about 25-30 pages. This is just tedious and boring task. Further, if you are not proficient in typing in Hindi and English, the task will be more of a burden. This is just one of the negative aspect of this unit.

Any difficult task has risks associated with it. And this branch has many of them. It has also happened that employees of this branch have been manhandled/beaten by the civilians for suspicious activity. Further, the nature of work in this branch is such that you cannot disclose your identity at any cost lest it should jeopardize the entire operation.

Sub-Inspector of this branch must be quick on his feet and he must have an exceptional presence of mind. The cancer of corruption is yet to creep up in the hearts of CBI officials because SU people stand guard and keep a watch over them.

It is because of SU that, In a period when every government department is earning a disrepute for being corrupt, CBI has maintained its dignity and name.


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Must read our 3 part series on CBI training:

1. Part 1: Introduction to CBI Training: the best thing that ever happened to me.

2. Part 2: Syllabus of CBI training: The most magical thing of all.

3. Part 3: Visits and Practicals in CBI training: Once in a lifetime experience.

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