MUMBAI — High-profile Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria, who personally interrogated accused in the sensational Sheena Bora murder case in an unsual action, was Tuesday shunted out of the post and transferred on “promotion” as Director General of Police Home Guards, reported PTI.
Eyebrows were raised as 58-year-old Maria swapped places with Ahmed Javed, who was appointed the new Mumbai Police Commissioner. Ahmed is a DG-rank officer and the Commissioner’s post has been upgraded.
Soon after taking over in a swift and sudden change of guard, Javed 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.
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.
The Maharashtra government had sought his explanation on his meeting with Lalit Modi and he had denied any wrongdoing.
As various theories floated over the reasons for his transfer, the Maharashtra Home Department 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,” Additional Chief Secretary (Home) K P Bakshi told reporters here.
He said that post of Mumbai Police Commissioner has been upgraded to ‘Director General’ rank post.
He said Maria, a 1981-batch IPS officer, had been transferred with “immediate effect” and that Javed, also a 1980-batch IPS officer, will take over as the new CP today itself.
Rubbishing reports that the changes were linked to the high profile case, Bakshi said it was an administrarive decision taken in view of the upcoming Ganapati festival season,
“There was no hurry in transferring Maria. It would have been inappropriate to transfer him on September 30, in the middle of the festive season as Ganapati festival, a very important event in Maharashtra, would be on at that time. Therefore, we decided to advance the promotion of Maria,” he said.
When asked about the fate of the ongoing Sheena Bora murder case investigation, Bakshi said that all investigations are important and not only this particular case and that the work of the CP is only to supervise the investigation.
“Investigations are conducted by lower-level police officials and supervised by the CP. The new CP is competent. Also, Javed should get enough time to handle the situation in Mumbai,” Bakshi said.
The Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis gave nod to the transfers before he embarked on a five-day tour to Japan.
The decision, however, came under attack from the opposition Congress and NCP.
Slamming it, 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.
NCP Mumbai Unit President Sachin Ahir said Maria is an efficient police officer and that there would have been no questions raised on the timing of the promotion had the government waited till the month end.
However, former Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh, now a BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh, told TV channels 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.
Javed Ahmed, who figured as a likely choice for the post of Mumbai Police Commissioner in 2013, was instead promoted as Director General (Home Guards) then.
58-year-old Maria, who has headed the Mumbai police crime branch, has been credited with cracking the 1993 serial bomb blasts case along with his team and playing a key role in the interrogation of Ajmal Kasab, the lone gunman captured during the 26/11 terror attack.
The new Police Commissioner rubbished reports that the team investigating the case under Maria had been disbanded.
“No officer has been removed from the team which is part of Sheena Bora Murder case and line of investigation is in the right direction,” said Javed.
He also said that every angle of the case would be proved thoroughly and it would be shared with media when any important development takes place.
Meanwhile, Indrani’s former husband Sanjeev Khanna, an accused in the murder case, was today remanded in judicial custody till September 21.
Indrani and her former driver Shyamvar Rai, were yesterday sent to judicial custody till September 21.
Khanna, who was taken to Kolkata to corroborate some crucial evidence in the case, was brought back to Mumbai last night.
Police had on Monday claimed a major breakthrough in the probe, saying the DNA tests conducted by Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) established that the skeletal remains found at Pen in 2012 were of Sheena. The FSL report was sent to police yesterday.
FSL officials said that the DNA extracted from the skeletal remains matched with that of Indrani and Sheena’s brother Mikhail Bora.
The three have been arrested on charges of murdering Sheena and disposing of the body at Pen forest in Maharashtra’s Raigad district in April 2012. According to police, Sheena was murdered on April 24, 2012.
Police claimed that they have recovered the shoes from Kolkata that were used by the accused when they went to dump the body in Pen forest.
Shyamvar, who worked for Indrani as driver in 2012, had told the police during interrogation that he, along with Indrani and Khanna, had killed Sheena, burnt her body and dumped the remains in a forest off Pen-Khopoli highway from where police retrieved the samples.
In the last fortnight, police have also extensively grilled Indrani’s husband Peter Mukerjea, though he is not an accused in the case so far.
Apart from Peter, his son Rahul Mukerjea and Vidhie, daughter of Indrani and Sanjeev Khanna, have been questioned by police in connection with the case.
Sheena was allegedly strangulated in a car, and her body was burnt and dumped at a forest in Raigad, about 84 km from Mumbai.
Police had last week exhumed remains of the body from Raigad forest and claimed that digital superimposition of the profile of Sheena had matched with the skull recovered from the forest.
The prosecution held that the accused have used modern tools like email and Internet to plan the murder and impersonated the victim by creating false email.–PTI