Sheena Bora murder: 'Shunted' Rakesh Maria will continue to head probe

Rakesh Maria, the high-profile Mumbai Police Commissioner who interrogated the accused in the Sheena Bora murder case in an unsual action, was on Tuesday shunted out of the post and promoted as Director General of Police Home Guards.

However, after the sudden action created quite a flutter, the Maharashtra government climbed down in the evening and said he would continue to "supervise" the probe.

"The government has decided that the Sheena Bora case will be continued to be supervised by Rakesh Maria, irrespective of his elevation and transfer", Additional Chief Secretary (Home) K P Bakshi told PTI.

Rakesh Maria and Ahmed Javed
Rakesh Maria and Ahmed Javed

On a day of high drama, Maria was replaced by Ahmed Javed, a DG-rank official, who took over as Mumbai Police Commissioner in the upgraded post. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had cleared both the appointments before he left for Japan last night.

With questions raised over the timing of the transfer, and the heat it generated in the media, Fadnavis directed that Maria be retained to supervise the investigations.

Maria, who had recently hogged limelight after a video of his meeting in July, 2014 with former IPL chief Lalit Modi in London surfaced, apparently took unusual interest when he frequently went to Khar police station for questioning the accused including Indrani Mukerjea, mother of Sheena.

Indrani Mukerjea being brought to Khar police station
Indrani Mukerjea being brought to Khar police station on September 3. Pic/ PTI

As various theories floated over the reasons for Maria's transfer, the Maharashtra Home Department had earlier in the day said the changes were made taking into account the law and order factor ahead of the Ganapati festival, dismissing suggestions that that it has some links with the ongoing investigation in the murder case.

"Maria has been promoted to the Director General rank and posted as the DG of Home Guards in Mumbai in place of Ahmed Javed. Javed (who was DG, Homeguards) becomes the new CP of Mumbai," K P Bakshi told PTI shortly after the orders were issued.

Javed, immediately after taking over as Mumbai Police chief, said the probe into the murder case will be done in a professional way, when he was asked whether he would be investigating it personally.

"The accused are currently in judicial custody. The probe will be done with proper team work. So far as investigation goes, it is over at this point of time.

"As far as investigation which goes on in connection with evidence, I think any case which is important or having a bearing with will be monitored in the right professional way," he said, adding that all spects including the financial angle would be investigated.

Giving indications of the Government making some amends to its decision, Minister of state for Home Ranjit Patil said in the evening that Maria could continue to montor the probe despite his elevation to the DG rank, which was due this month-end.

"Investigation is 95 per cent complete. There will be no implication for the investigation. I don't think the direction of investigation will change if Maria is not at the helm. If he wants (still) to handle the case, the choice is open," Patil said.

On the timing of the postings, he said, "we need to give the new man (Javed) at least ten days to settle down. Smooth conduct of the Ganesh festival is a challenge for the Mumbai police," he said.

Patil also denied that Fadnavis, who holds the Home portfolio himself, was upset with Maria who was perceived to be close to NCP.

The decision, however, came under attack from opposition Congress and NCP.

Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam said Maria's transfer was prompted by "undue pressure" from bosses in New Delhi and corporate houses.

"Since Maria was heading a high-profile murder case, the government should have waited till investigation is completed. It seems that the abrupt transfer has been taken under pressure from the government's bosses in Delhi and some corporate house who had vested interests," he said.

However, former Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh, now a BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh, said that one of the reasons for shifting Maria could be that he is close to Peter Mukerjea, husband of Sheena murder case accused Indrani Mukerjea.

Ahmed Javed, who had figured as a likely choice for the post of Mumbai Police Commissioner in 2013, was instead promoted as Director General (Home Guards) then.

Javed and Maria: A tale of two top cops

Ahmed Javed, who has taken over as the new Mumbai police chief from Rakesh Maria, is well known in party circles. Javed is due fore retirement in January 2016, but may get an extension. He has been famous for attending page 3 parties and his character was even portrayed in Page 3.

Maria, on the other hand, was due for a transfer on September 31 and was trying his best for an extension of three months. He knew that he was not in good books of CM Devendra Fadnavis, and so was trying his luck in Delhi with the top order of BJP. But Fadnavis, before Maria could meet anybody, took the decision, and transferred Maria.

Former Commissioner of Police Satyapal Singh, and now BJP MP, even told a news channel that Maria was shunted out to DG Home Guards as he shared close friendship with Peter Mukerjea, whose wife Indrani has been arrested by Mumbai Police in connection with her daughter’s murder case.

Maria is considered very close to Nationalist Congress Party and had superseded Javed, his senior, to become Mumbai’s Commissioner of Police in February 2014 when NCP and Congress were in power.

-- Vinay Dalvi 

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