The Maharashtra government on Wednesday officially asked Rakesh Maria, now director general of police (home guards), to monitor the Sheena Bora murder case despite naming Ahmad Javed Mumbai’s new police commissioner the day before. However, sources in the Mumbai police said Maria was reluctant to continue with the investigation after his abrupt transfer on Tuesday.
Minister of state for home Ram Shinde said, “An official communication has been sent to Maria, directing him to supervise the investigation into the [Sheena Bora murder] case.” Asked if the officers conducting the investigation would report to Maria or Javed, Shinde said, “For this particular case, the investigating officers will report to Rakesh Maria only, as he has been asked to supervise the probe.”
Earlier in the day, confusion reigned as the state government continued a series of flip-flops that began soon after Maria and Javed were transferred. The decision to transfer Maria and appoint Javed his successor on Tuesday led to a backlash against the government, which it tried to mitigate by retaining Maria for the Sheena murder case – without formally asking him. When Maria said he had not received any such order, home department officials said there was no provision to issue formal orders in such a situation. As a result, uncertainty around who would monitor the Sheena case continued through most of Wednesday.
Maria refused to comment on the case and on his transfer, but sources said he was reluctant to investigate the case any longer. Meanwhile, at the police commissionerate, neither police commissioner Javed nor joint commissioner of police (law and order) Deven Bharti – who is also monitoring the Sheena Bora investigation – spoke to journalists.
Senior Mantralaya officials said the controversy could have been avoided and that the government should have stuck to its decision once it had decided to remove Maria. “Choosing who will investigate a case is the prerogative of the Mumbai police commissioner, and normally the government doesn’t issue any orders asking him to hand over an investigation to a particular officer unless it involves something like a special investigation team. In fact, the decision was an afterthought and an attempt at damage control. It brought more embarrassment to the government and set a bad precedent,” said a senior officer at Mantralaya .
The home department is also likely to face criticism – or worse – for not following norms when promoting Maria. A meeting of the police establishment board, which is mandatory in such situations, was not held. According to sources in the home department, this could cause trouble for the government if challenged in court.
Meanwhile, Maria is expected to face more action over his meeting with former IPL chief Lalit Modi in London last July, with the government looking at censuring him for it. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis was said to be dissatisfied with the clarification Maria issued two months ago and wanted to take action against Maria immediately, but was prevented from doing so because of political equations in Delhi. Now, however, Maria may be censured for “conduct unbecoming of an officer” under the All India Services (Conduct) Rule.