Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Rakesh Maria’s unceremonious exit as Mumbai Police Commissioner: 10 Questions and Answers

Nana Patekar playing the role of Rakesh Maria in a film 
MUMBAI top cop Rakesh Maria’s removal on Tuesday was no less confusing than the case he was trying to solve. In fact, BoI received many a question from its readers: Was Maria indeed promoted? Will upset Maria really resign? What is Maria’s relations with Peter Mukherjea, the media honcho whose wife is an accused in Seena Bora murder case, the one Maria has been investigating with lots of interest? Was CM Devendra Fadnavis upset with Maria? And what about Maria’s connection with Bollywood? BoI here presents 10 such questions with answers:

1. Was Maria indeed promoted?
Both "yes" and "no". Yes, for 1981 batch IPS officer Maria, getting the director general rank is indeed a promotion. But DG (Homeguard) is an inconsequential post in comparison to Mumbai Police Commissioner. More than that, his removal from this high-profile post was unceremonious.

2. But why did the government bring in a senior IPS officer who had less than five months in service?
Good question. That Ahmed Javed, a 1980 batch DG-ranked IPS and the one who would retire in less than five months time (retiring in January 2016) demonstrates that the move was not to install someone as new Mumbai Police Commissioner but to somehow get rid of Maria. It was probably well calculated that bringing a younger officer at this stage would create more confusion and even foment tension. The transition would be smoother if Javed, a senior to Maria, was brought in.

3. Will upset Maria resign now? 
Known for his articulation, Maria on Tuesday chose not to comment much. But what he said was more than enough to read his mind. "Yes, I am thinking of resigning", he said. When he boarded on his official Scorpio to depart his office, his face spoke volumes. On Wednesday, Maria, however, clarified that the question of his resignation did not arise.

4. Some reports suggest Maria is too close to the family of Indrani Mukherjea (the one who is accused in her daughter Seena Bora's murder)?
None other than former Mumbai Police Commissioner and present BJP MP Satyapal Singh told news channels on record that he had heard Maria is close to Peter Mukherjea, husband of Indrani Mukherjea. So, some quarters raised questions why Peter Mukherjea was spared of custodial interrogation in this sensational murder case. Maria however rubbishes such claims.

5. But is it not unusual that the city police commissioner himself interrogates the accused in a murder case?
Yes, it’s unusual but not against any rules. As it’s a high-profile and highly-complicated murder case where links spread across states – Maharashtra, West Bengal and Assam, and the accused remained “hard nuts to crack” throughout the probe (Indrani has not confessed much), Maria’s decision to lead from the front undoubtedly gave more muscle to the investigators. But it raised some questions as well. Why Maria is so “interested” in a single case when he needed to think about the law and order situation of the entire city?  Maria spent hours in Khar police station and interrogated the accused himself. But Maria’s version was that he did not want the police to lose this case as it had happened in case of Aarushi murder case (a 2008 double murder in Noida which was not conclusively resolved reportedly because of botched up investigation by UP police at the initial stage). Also, Maria probably wanted to leave a mark for himself by solving this 2012 mysterious murder case, long ignored by police in Raigarh.

6. So, who will investigate the Seena murder case now?
The moment Maria was shifted out as the Police Commissioner, it was speculated that the case would now be handed over to crime branch. After all, the top cops in the crime branch were reportedly unhappy about not handing over the case to them. But new Mumbai Police Commissioner announced that he would deploy the same set of officers to probe it “till the case comes to a logical end”.
In fact, Maria would have been out of this case but the widespread criticism of his premature transfer forced the Maharashtra government to relent. By the evening on Tuesday, additional chief secretary KP Bakshi issued an official order saying Maria would continue to monitor the case.

7. Does that mean DG (Homeguard) will investigate, probably for the first time, a sensational murder case?
Yes, it’s unusual, but the reality is DG (Homeguard) will now probe this case. It’s not yet known what is Maria’s reaction to this development, but he must have been consulted before the state government issued a three-line order stating Maria would continue to monitor the case. After all, the government does not want to take risks because if the case gets derailed, everyone would blame the Devendra Fadnavis government for engineering a failure and even read motives to the decision.

8. Was Maharashtra CM upset with Maria for any reason?
Yes. He was not so happy with the way Maria showed interests in the Seena Bora murder case. The chief minister had earlier told media that police should pay similar attention to other cases which do not get media focus. Some say, Maria is close to Sharad Pawar-led NCP, something that always irked the CM who is heading a BJP-led government in the state.

9. Can you tell us 3 interesting factoids about Maria?
Why not? First, Maria belongs to a family that is involved in film industry. Mumbai’s production house Kala Niketan belongs to their family. Secondly, Maria anchored the probe of 26/11 Mumbai attack, and interrogated Ajmal Kasab, the Pakistani terrorist who was captured alive and was then hanged after following the due judicial process. Thirdly, in Ram Gopal Varma film The Attacks of 26/11, actor Nana Patekar played the role of Rakesh Maria.

10. By the way, will Maria resign by any chance?
The way Maria was shifted out of this high-profile job prior to his tenure ended, was indeed unceremonious. So, it’s quite natural that the top cop thought of “resigning” or more precisely taking a “voluntary retirement” (if he resigns he will lose all post-retirement benefits). "Yes, I am thinking of resigning", was what Maria said when asked about his reaction to his sudden exit. But in all probability, he is not resigning. The very talk of resignation could be a tactical pressure on the government to relent. On Wednesday, he clarified that he did not say he would resign.
Mind it, new incumbent Ahmed Javed too expressed his unhappiness in public when he was denied the post of Mumbai Police Commissioner in February 2014. Javed was senior to Maria and was widely seen as a strong contender for the key post. Many thought, Javed might take voluntary retirement, but he instead decided to move on.

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