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Rakesh Maria's transfer shows Fadnavis govt's inexperience

The Mumbai police commissioner’s removal shows a lack of administrative experience.

editorials Updated: Sep 10, 2015 16:28 IST
File photo of Mumbai's former police commissioner Rakesh Maria. (HT file photo)
File photo of Mumbai's former police commissioner Rakesh Maria. (HT file photo)

The Maharashtra government’s decision to remove Rakesh Maria as Mumbai police commissioner before he completed the investigation into the murder of Sheena Bora and to then put him back in charge of the case, in the face of a media firestorm, has created a controversy it could have done without.

The government has tied itself in knots trying to explain its actions as chief minister Devendra Fadnavis signed the transfer order and left on a trip to Japan. Damage control was left to the top bureaucrat in the home department, KP Bakshi, who first justified the timing of the transfer saying that though Maria was due to be promoted by the end of the month, waiting that long would have left his successor with little time to ready for the festive season — the 10-day Ganapati celebrations and Diwali are a fraught time for the Mumbai police.

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But the Ganapati festival is between September 17 and 27 this year, and Mr Maria was due to move out only by September 30.

It was no secret that Mr Fadnavis was unhappy with Mr Maria, who is seen as someone who is close to the opposition Nationalist Congress Party brass. Mr Maria has always denied this. Matters came to a head after the news broke that Mr Maria had secretly met the former Indian Premier League czar Lalit Modi in London in July last year.

Mr Maria had said he had informed the then home minister, the late RR Patil, about the meeting, but Mr Fadnavis was reportedly unconvinced and there is now talk that he may formally censure the officer.

Mr Fadnavis had also told the media that the police should accord equal emphasis to all cases and not focus merely on the high-profile Sheena murder, a comment seen as rebuke to Mr Maria. So his transfer was expected. What was not was the manner and timing of it.

The government’s actions have left the Mumbai police and the new commissioner, Ahmad Javed, facing an unprecedented situation. The Mumbai police’s most high-profile murder investigation will be monitored not by the new chief but by his predecessor.

So where does this leave Mr Javed? Several former Mumbai police commissioners were unanimous in criticising this move, saying it would demoralise the force. So why did the government not stand firm once it had decided to remove Mr Maria? The way events unfolded throughout the day on Tuesday point to a lack of administrative experience.

A more savvy administration would not have been seen as susceptible to pulls and pressures. The government has drawn unnecessary attention to a transfer that would quietly have occurred at the end of the month.

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