A former police commissioner recalls his promotion during the Sheena Bora murder case

19 February 2020
COURTESY WESTLAND
COURTESY WESTLAND

Rakesh Maria, a former commissioner of police of Mumbai, was involved in investigating the 2012 murder of Sheena Bora—a 24-year-old human-resources executive. Her mother, the media executive Indrani Mukerjea, was arrested for the crime, in August 2015, and subsequently so were Sanjeev Khanna and Peter Mukerjea, her ex-husband and husband, respectively. At the time, Peter was one of Mumbai’s most powerful media professionals. 

In his newly published memoir, Let Me Say It Now, Maria remembers that while evidence was being gathered for the probe, Peter Mukerjea was regularly summoned to the Khar police station and questioned. Maria also recalls briefing Devandra Fadnavis, the Maharashtra chief minister at the time, on one occasion, when he stated that though Peter had not been present during the murder, his complicity was being looked into. On 8 September 2015, Maria was promoted to the position of director-general of police of the state’s home guards, effectively removing him from what was an immensely high-profile criminal case at the time. This was followed by media speculation that Maria had known the Mukerjeas socially, which he had categorically denied. Fadnavis suggested in a 2016 interview that Maria was promoted “a little early to avoid controversies.” 

In Let Me Say It Now, Maria claims that shortly after his transfer, the media began reporting that his successor, Ahmad Javed, knew Indrani and her husband Peter socially. He also recalls a sleepless night on 7 September 2015. That day, he had been hit by the realisation that Peter Mukerjee knew Deven Bharti—at the time, the joint commissioner of police, law and order—on first-name terms. This was after he had asked Peter why he had not done anything about Sheena’s absence, to which he allegedly got the reply, “Sir, I had told Deven!” Maria adds, “Deven Bharti had not thought it fit to tell me even once that the Mukerjeas were close to him. On the contrary, whenever I would discuss with him the mystery of the nonregistration of the missing complaint or the accidental death report, he would keep his silence.” In the following excerpt from the book, Maria recounts the circumstances surrounding his promotion, and how he was kept in the dark about the decision. 

I had taken charge of my new assignment without any delay, as is expected of a disciplined officer. Yet deep down, there was a sense of hurt. It was strange that I should have received no advance communication from the state government conveying their decision to promote and transfer me before the completion of my term, leave alone give reasons for such a move. A prior intimation is the least that was expected, and a decent way of doing it. The absence of it belittled the dignity of the office of the commissioner of police, Mumbai and also put to nought my 34 years of selfless service in the Indian Police Service. Yet, the cardinal principle of government service is that postings and transfers are a prerogative of the state and I therefore kept my feelings to myself. 

I was flooded with agonising queries from friends and family who wanted to know if and where I had gone wrong. It was clear that my reputation was getting sullied in their eyes, and also in the eyes of my colleagues, my seniors in the IPS and the general public. For there was a great degree of speculation on the reasons for my abrupt transfer: that I had taken undue interest in the Sheena Bora murder case and that was the reason behind my alleged daily visits to Khar police station; that I was friends with Peter Mukerjea; that I had posted officers close to me at the Khar police station and that I had shielded Peter Mukerjea by not probing the financial angle in the crime. Although the media hounded me for my answers and views, I maintained my silence as a disciplined police officer, and also in the interest of the investigation which was at a critical stage. 

Rakesh Maria is a former commissioner of police, Mumbai.

Keywords: Sheena Bora Devendra Fadvanis Indrani Mukerjea Peter Mukerjea memoir
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