Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria, 58, who was investigating one of the country's most high profile murders, was shunted out on Tuesday, along with four other officers, and Ahmed Jawed, a 1980-batch IPS officer, took charge immediately as the city's top cop.
Maria has been elevated to the rank of Director General, Home Guards. Jawed, speaking to reporters after his appointment, said which team was probing the sensational Sheena Bora murder case wasn't important as long as the investigation was factual and correct. It is not yet clear how the transfer of Maria, who is said to have a softer approach to Peter Mukerjea, media baron and husband of main accused Indrani in the murder of 24-year-old Sheena, will affect the probe.
The government officially played down suggestions that Maria's sympathetic stand towards Peter cost him his job and said it was a routine promotion that was due to him. Maria, in his 34-year career, has handled several high profile cases. His soft-spoken demeanor belied his tough interrogation techniques.
It was Maria, a report dated June 24 in the Hindustan Times claimed, who held actor Sanjay Dutt by his hair and "toppled him from the chair, leading him to finally confess his association with the underworld elements involved in the 1993 blasts and his possession of an AK-47 assault rifle".
He handled the investigations into the 2003 blasts at Mumbai's Zaveri Bazaar and Gateway of India that killed 52 people. He also led the probe into the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and the German Bakery blast in Pune.
The report quoted a police officer as saying that just before addressing a media briefing, Maria once slapped an accused unconscious in his office premises.
Maharashtra's Additional Chief Secretary (Home), KP Bakshi, said Maria's promotion was due on September 30.
"The government did not want to take this decision in the middle of the festive season", Bakshi said. "All investigations are important, not just this one," he told reporters. Changing the CP in the middle of the Ganpati festival would not have been appropriate, he said, adding that Jawed must get enough time to settle down into his new role.
"Security and safety of women and children and quality of service delivery at police stations will be the police's primary objective," Jawed said. When pressed to comment on the Sheena Bora case, Jawed said "investigation is collective team work and all aspects of investigation, whether it is financial or otherwise will be covered."
CNN-IBN reported that not just Maria, but four other police officers involved in Sheena Bora case have also been transferred.
In June, Maria found himself in the middle of the Lalit Modi controversy with photos of him with the former IPL commissioner doing the rounds in the media. The Mumbai Police Commissioner told Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis that he had met Modi in London at the insistence of the IPL chief's lawyer.
So turns out the Mumbai CP post, which is Add'l DG rank has been upgraded to DG rank to accommodate Ahmed Javed. Curiouser x 2.— Sreenivasan Jain (@SreenivasanJain) September 8, 2015
Maria personally took charge of the Sheena Bora case this month and was part of the interrogation of accused Indrani Mukerjea. TV channels suggested that Maria may have been shunted out because of his close links with Peter.
Fadnavis is said to have signed the transfer order before he left for a tour of Japan. HT reported that Fadnavis was reportedly upset with the way the Sheena Bora case was being handled by Maria and the media hype around it.