The Anti-Terrorist Squad’s new chief, Rakesh Maria — once he takes charge on Monday — could put the agency through a major reshuffle, especially when it comes to its field officers.
Some officers who played vital roles in the investigation and detection of Indian Mujahideen operatives, and are currently posted with the Mumbai crime branch, could be moved to the ATS.
Since he formed the core team to investigate the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, Maria has traditionally chosen to work with a small band of trusted men.
These policemen were handpicked and have stayed with him for almost 15 years — and police sources say most of them will, in all likelihood, join him in the ATS.
It is a pattern first seen when Maria took over the crime branch three years ago.
One of the first things he did back then was gather his best investigators — including at least 20 officers from police stations across the city — into a formidable team, which went on to crack some major cases, including the Neeraj Grover and Beena Dedhia (Kalachowkie) murders.
Instrumental in putting underworld don Arun Gawli behind bars, the reputation of the crime branch also saw it entrusted with investigations into the Mumbai 26/11 terror strike.
When Hindustan Times spoke with him, Maria chose to keep his methods under the radar, saying: “I need to take charge first and get attuned to the functioning of the ATS. It [bringing in his trusted men] could happen in the course of time”.
His insistence on getting his own men stems from the deeply entrenched intelligence network he and his team have cultivated over the years.
At least four policemen have been moved to the ATS a few days before Maria’s elevation was announced.
Among them are Assistant Police Inspector Kedar Pawar and three constables including Arun Jadhav — who survived Lashkar-e-Tayyaba operatives Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab and Ismail’s bullets on November 26, 2008.
Jadhav was in the same Toyota Qualis in which three top policemen — then ATS chief Hemant Karkare, additional commissioner of police Ashok Kamte and senior police inspector Vijay Salaskar — were shot dead by the two LeT operatives.
This transfer however, is not being attributed to the reshuffle.
A crime branch officer, on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media, said some crime branch officers have been expecting a call to the ATS, and are willing to take up the challenge.