Mumbai’s Police Commissioner’s Abrupt Transfer Raises Questions

Rakesh Maria who was leading investigations into the Sheena Bora case has been transferred. (Photo: PTI)

Rakesh Maria who was leading investigations into the Sheena Bora case has been transferred. (Photo: PTI)

Mumbai: No sooner did news break on Tuesday that Mumbai’s high profile Commissioner of Police, Rakesh Maria had been transferred out of his job than speculation began on the reasons for this abrupt move. And adding fuel to the fire were statements by both a former police chief and Maria’s replacement as well as the fact that the entire team investigating the Sheena Bora disappearance case has been disbanded.

The new Commissioner is Director General of Home Guards Ahmed Javed, who lost the top post to Maria in February 2014 and had then taken a leave of absence to express his disappointment. After taking over Tuesday, Ahmed hinted that the investigation into the case, which Maria was leading, would be “monitored in the right professional way as it deserves” – a hint that there was disappointment at the lack of real progress.

Rakesh Maria. Credit: PTI

Rakesh Maria. Credit: PTI

A former Commissioner, Satyapal Singh, now a BJP MP, hinted that Maria had been shunted to the innocuous job of Home Guard chief because he was too friendly with Peter Mukerjea, whose wife Indrani is facing accusations of murdering her own daughter Sheena. Mukerjea has been called for questioning but has not been arrested, unlike Indrani.

Indrani has been moved to judicial custody, but faced over two weeks of intense police interrogation, some of it led by Maria himself. His personal interest in a murder case was considered surprising, since normally such an investigation would be conducted by a lower level officer.

A hint of the government’s displeasure at Maria’s involvement came over the weekend when Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the police must distribute its attention equally to all cases. Recently, Maria had also met Fadnavis to explain his meeting with Lalit Modi in London last year. Maria had then said he had advised Modi to return to India and face charges.

Maria’s term was to come to an end on September 30, so certainly his shift is not as routine as the state’s Additional Home Secretary K P Bakshi made it out to be. Bakshi said the post had been upgraded to that of a Director General of Police, and hence Maria had to be moved to bring in someone of that rank.