Rakesh Maria Exit: Was the Top Cop Overzealous or Overprotective?

Rakesh Maria’s sudden removal as Mumbai top cop may be due to his ardent involvement in the Sheena Bora murder case.

4 min read
Rakesh Maria Exit: Was the Top Cop Overzealous or Overprotective?

The sensational Sheena Bora murder case today scalped, so to say, the first public official – Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria.

Maria’s sudden and unceremonious removal as Mumbai Police Commissioner Tuesday afternoon, which left the top brass stunned, may have been the outcome of his overzealous involvement in the Sheena Bora murder case in which former TV industry honcho Peter Mukerjea’s wife Indrani and two other persons stand accused.

But the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) of Maharashtra further muddied waters by stating that Maria would continue to lead the Sheena Bora investigation.

Why Rakesh Maria Was Ousted

Maria’s ouster comes a day after Indrani and her driver Shyamwar Rai, who, according to the police, played an active role in murdering Sheena on April 24, 2012, were remanded to judicial custody. Yesterday, reports claimed that the DNA samples of Indrani and Sheena Bora had matched.

Maria, who appeared to be in a tearing hurry to solve Sheena Bora’s murder, swapped positions with Director-General of Police (Home Guards) Ahmed Javed who, incidentally, retires in January 2016.

According to sources close to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who publicly expressed his annoyance for the way Sheena Bora murder case was being given far too much prominence over other criminal cases, he signed the transfer order before leaving for Japan this morning.

Maria Departed in a Hurry

It was immediately communicated to Maria who quickly handed over charge to Javed before taking a hurried departure salute and leaving the commissionerate in his official Scorpio vehicle. Appearing grim-faced as he hurried down the carpeted stairs leading to the portico, Maria refused to make any comments. One Joint Commissioner of Police admitted that Maria’s removal was “indeed a surprise”.

Javed held a quick meeting with four senior colleagues, including Joint Commissioner Deven Bharti, who too was deeply involved in the Sheena Bora murder investigation, before taking questions from the media. Responding to a question by The Quint whether he would formally involve the Crime Branch to lead the probe, Javed said, “It will be a collective effort.”

Sheena Bora Team Not to be Disbanded?

Javed, however, denied that the team of investigators that Maria had formed about three months ago and centred around Khar police station had been disbanded immediately.

While insisting that henceforth the investigation will be a collective effort, Javed, responding to another question by The Quint, said that the “case should be properly handled so that there is successful prosecution during the trial” and that it “would be monitored if it deserves to be done.”

Maria’s Role in Sheena Probe Angered the Govt

Notwithstanding the official position on Maria’s removal – he was promoted and given the rank of DGP before the due date of September 30 and therefore there was nothing unusual about it – sources told The Quint. The main reason for Maria’s undoing was the manner in which he “got too interested in the case” to the extent that his involvement had begun to affect the gathering of quality evidence.

The sources said that the perception was that Maria’s involvement was proving to “benefit” Peter Mukerjea who should have been subjected to custodial interrogation. The basis for such a perception is that Peter knew far more about two very crucial factors linked to the crime: Indrani and his financial dealings, which have a huge bearing on the case, and Sheena was Indrani’s daughter and not sister.

More importantly, The Quint has learnt that Maria steered clear from investigating several key elements of the case, including the personal angle, which along with the financial factor, could have revealed the real motive of Sheena’s murderers. Besides, Maria showed little inclination to find out why Peter Mukerjea called some senior IPS officers in Maharashtra and West Bengal once Indrani was arrested on August 25.

In this context, Mumbai-based advocate Abha Singh said that Maria’s “conduct was not above board.” She insisted that Peter Mukerjea should have been subjected to custodial interrogation, a step which Maria was loath to order. “My stand, outlined in my letter to the chief minister, stands vindicated. The government must ensure that the police now probe the case without any fear or favour,” Singh said.

What makes it amply clear is that the state government was – rightly – concerned about Maria’s involvement in the case, which reflected anything but impartiality, was putting Javed in the hot seat. Javed, a 1980 batch IPS officer who is senior to Maria, is due to retire in January, which means that the Fadnavis government wanted to get rid of Maria post haste. At the same time, the government sought to punish and humiliate Maria by elevating him to an insignificant post.

According to police sources, if the government did not want Maria to be ousted, he could have been allowed to retain the DGP rank and continued to lead the city police. Instead, the government upgraded the commissioner’s post to DG rank after directing Javed to take charge of Mumbai Police’s reins.

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