One of the most talked about IPS officers in the country, 1981-batch officer Rakesh Maria has an enviable track record of solving several high-profile and sensitive cases during his career.
With a reputation of being a specialist in cracking terror cases, it was Maria who first laid bare the tentacles of the Indian Mujahideen after a series of blasts across the country in 2008.
Be it the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, the Zaveri Bazaar and Gateway of India blasts, the 2008 terror strikes, the 2010 Pune German Bakery blast and the July 2011 Mumbai triple blasts, Maria played a lead role in cracking them all. Born and brought up in Bandra, Maria’s father was a Bollywood producer and film personalities were frequent visitors at his house. He has himself been immortalised in Black Friday, a film based on former Indian Express correspondent S Hussain Zaidi’s book by the same name. Maria is also said to have inspired the character Ajay Lal in Suketu Mehta’s book Maximum City.
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Maria first shot to fame in 1993 when he got involved in the probe into serial blasts by sheer coincidence. Posted as DCP (Traffic) at the time, he cracked the case with the recovery of an explosives-laden scooter in Dadar and an abandoned Maruti van in Worli.
He has since been DCP (Crime), Commissioner of Railways, JCP (Crime), special IG (Training) and additional director general heading the state’s Anti-Terrorism Squad.
During his stint as special IG (Training), Maria attempted to introduce psychological profiling of policemen prior to giving them postings.
Maria is known for his ability to extract information from suspects during interrogation, and for his elephantine memory and uncanny ability to recall the dates of arrests, licence plate numbers and other minute details of cases going back several years.
Maria is also said to be a great storyteller, regaling audiences with anecdotes collected over his career, one of them being on the murder of television executive Neeraj Grover by Kannada actress Maria Susairaj and her fiance naval officer Jerome Mathew in 2008. When Susairaj went to meet Maria to tell him about Grover’s disappearance, Maria famously said, “Madam, you are my suspect.” Maria also played a key role in the probe into the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, which concluded with lone surviving Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab being found guilty and executed in 2012.
Maria also outdid others in getting gangster Arun Gawli arrested and convicted in 2008 for the murder of Shiv Sena corporator Kamlakar Jamsandekar. Gawli is now behind bars in the case.
Questions have been raised, however, of ATS’s claim in the German Bakery blast case in which Himayat Baig was shown as the main accused. Arrested Indian Mujahideen operative Yasin Bhatkal recently told interrogators that Baig was innocent. A few prosecution witnesses have also told the court they were made to testify against Baig under duress.
Earlier, Maria, had also suffered a setback when the Sessions Court acquitted Indians Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed, who were shown as the co-accused with Kasab in the 26/11 terror attack case. Their acquittal was upheld by the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court.