Following the sudden decision to promote erstwhile Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria and move him to the Home Guards, social media erupted in speculation over whether this was a result of his keen interest in the high-profile Sheena Bora murder case or due to the controversies that have plagued Mumbai Police while Maria was chief.
Ever since Maria took charge as commissioner in February 2014, his tenure has been mired in controversy, be it for paying a visit to the tainted ex-chief of IPL Lalit Modi, or the hooch tragedy in Malwani that claimed 104 lives or the more recent moral policing controversy, where the Malwani police pulled out couples in hotels and charged them with public indecency.
In June this year, Maria was forced to explain to the state government why he had met Lalit Modi — who was being probed for money laundering charges by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) — in London in 2014. No sooner had one storm passed than another one came along in the form of the Malwani hooch horror, in which 104 people lost their lives to illicit liquor that was laced with deadly methanol.
Locals alleged that they had complained to the police about the local hooch racket several times, but the cops took no action, and were in fact working hand-in-glove with the culprits. In August, the department received flak yet again after the Malwani police then carried out a raid in hotels at Madh Island and Aksa, rounding up 40-odd couples, subjecting them to intense humiliation and charging them with ‘indecent behaviour in public’.
After mid-day broke this story, Maria issued a diktat to cops to not harass couples at public places. But sources from the department said that while Maria had punished junior cops for the moral policing incident, he had backed out when it came to taking action against senior cops.
“He did not take any action against DCP Vikram Deshmane, even though he was the one who had ordered the raid at the Aksa hotel. But when it came to taking action against small constables he could do it without any problem,” said a cop.
The department had also faced considerable embarrassment in March when they closed in on a mephedrone drug racket — in which six cops were allegedly involved — only to discover that the large consignment of drugs was just the food ingredient ajinomoto. There were further stains on the khaki in the following month, when three policemen were arrested for raping a young model in a police station.