In August 1994, when gangster Dawood Ibrahim’s men murdered Ramdas Nayak, a sitting MLA from the BJP, the police were under tremendous pressure to find and prosecute the killers. A veteran assistant commissioner of police walked into the office of deputy commissioner of police Rakesh Maria and offered to make fake arrests to reduce the political pressure. Fake arrests in with respect to the underworld were a common practice in those days.
But Maria, who had recently cracked the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, rejected the ACP’s offer. He wanted to arrest Dawood gang member Firoz Konkani for the murder. For the next six months, the crime branch focused on tracking Konkani down. He managed to kill two of Maria’s informers but was finally arrested from a hotel in Bangalore by crime branch officers posing as waiters.
Born into the family of a Bollywood film producer in Mumbai, Maria chose the Indian Police Service after graduating from St Xavier’s College. In 1981, he began his career as an assistant superintendent of police at Akola. After being transferred to Mumbai in 1986, he initially wanted to specialise in traffic management, for which he had undergone a course in Japan. But the 1993 serial blasts were to transform the city he grew up in and redirect his career in a way he had never imagined.
One of the first controversies Maria faced was a sting operation connected to a cricket betting scandal in 2003. Though Maria emerged unscathed, it was not long before he found himself in another controversy. An email that contained a terror alert concerning a prominent place of worship in Mumbai was allegedly sent from his account. The episode ended with Maria being shunted to the Protection of Civil Rights branch.
He spent considerable time in low-profile postings such as inspector general (training) before he returned to prominence as joint commissioner of police (crime) in Mumbai in 2007. During this stint, Maria was credited with busting an Indian Mujahideen module and arresting 22 operatives.
In 2011, he led the investigation into the December 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, extracting vital information from Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving terrorist. The investigation became embroiled in controversy where the wife of slain IPS officer Ashok Kamte accused Maria of mishandling the police’s response to the attacks.
Maria was later posted as the additional director general of police (anti-terrorism squad), during which time he investigated three blast cases -- the Pune German Bakery blast in February 2010, the serial blasts in Mumbai in July 2011, and the low-intensity blasts at Pune’s Jungli Maharaj Road in August 2012.
Maria was appointed Mumbai police commissioner February 15, 2014, but this stint also proved controversial. He earned the disapproval of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis for allegedly meeting former Indian Premier League (IPL) commissioner Lalit Modi while on an official visit to London in 2014.
Maria was removed from the post of commissioner while supervising the investigation into the Sheena Bora murder case in September 2015 and posted as director general of home guards. The 58-year-old officer had spent hours personally interrogating suspects, including Sheena’s mother Indrani Mukerjea and her husband Peter Mukerjea. One theory is that Maria’s direct handling of the investigation cost him his position.