Mumbai: Over a year after Rakesh Maria was removed as Mumbai police chief, reportedly for taking "too much interest" in the Sheena Bora murder case, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday said the high-profile officer was "promoted" a bit early to "avoid controversies".
"There were 2-3 controversies created at that time. One was about Lalit Modi, where Maria gave a clarification and we accepted it. Secondly, when he was taking keen interest in the Sheena Bora investigation, questions were raised why is a CP taking so much interest. But Maria is known to have a keen interest in criminal investigation. So it was quite possible that he was taking interest out of that nature of his," Fadnavis told PTI.
He said that Maria was not transferred but promoted and that there was nothing unusual in a Commissioner of Police being promoted a few weeks earlier than scheduled.
"Today, if I say that I knew that the Sheena Bora investigation was not going correctly and that is why I transferred him, it will be an afterthought. But yes, due to these controversies that were happening, I thought that I will promote him a little early to put an end to controversies," he said.
Fadnavis said, unexpectedly, a fresh controversy erupted after his promotion which made him give Maria the permission to "supervise" the investigation.
"I think apart from this case, Maria had an excellent record. We should give him benefit of doubt but it is also true that till the case was transferred to CBI, I was always briefed that Peter's direct involvement (in the murder) is not seen.
"It is quite possible that by the time it (the case) was with Mumbai police they could not track it. I am not casting aspersions on anyone, but I was just surprised at the briefing that I received after Peter was arrested," Fadnavis said.
Fadnavis also said the state government has not received any official communication from the CBI about any officer's interrogation or direct or indirect connection with any accused in the case.
Maria and two other senior Maharashtra police officers were recently examined by the CBI officials as they were part of the initial probe team which investigated the Sheena Bora murder case and arrested her mother Indrani Mukherjea.
Besides Maria, the CBI also questioned Deven Bharti, Joint Commissioner (Law and Order) and Satya Narayan Choudhary, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone-X).
A controversy had erupted in June last year after some TV news channels showed photographs of Maria with former IPL boss Lalit Modi in London. Modi faces charges of financial irregularities and money laundering in India. After Fadnavis demanded an explanation, Maria issued a statement saying that he had met the former IPL Commissioner at the insistence of the latter's lawyer in London in 2014.