Rakesh Maria’s removal from the Mumbai Police chief’s post was not abrupt. The government started the process well over a fortnight ago, which was confirmed by Additional Chief Secretary (Home) K P Bakshi. The state, however, did not fully follow the entire process stipulated for promotion and transfer of officials.
The Indian Express has learnt that no meeting of the Police Establishment Board (PEB), which is authorised to make appropriate recommendations regarding postings and transfers of officials, was held in this case. The Maharashtra Police Act says the state government “shall give due weightage to these recommendations and shall normally accept them”.
For transfers and postings related to officers above the superintendent of police rank, a PEB headed by the ACS (Home), and comprising the state director general of police, director general (ACB), Mumbai Police commissioner, and additional DGP (Establishment) as members is in place. Senior officials pointed out that Maria would have had to recuse such a meeting since the matter dealt with his own posting. This process was, however, given a go-by, raising eyebrows. Under the law, it is the PEB’s mandate to collectively screen the seniority and track record of candidates before recommending a case.
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Interestingly, Bakshi clarified, Maria’s successor Ahmad Javed was not the only one in the race for the Mumbai Police’s top post. Two other DG-rank officials — Vijay Kamble and Satish Mathur — besides ADGPs Meeran Borwankar, D D Padsalgikar, and K K Pathak were also considered for the post. In fact, official sources said, Javed was not even the first choice.
Fadnavis was keen on Padsalgikar, but the 1982-batch IPS officer, presently serving as additional director in the Intelligence Bureau in Delhi, declined the offer.
Bakshi, however, tried to play down the issue. “The PEB meeting is required when we have several posts and transfers to consider. This wasn’t the case here,” he said. Bakshi said Maria’s promotion and transfer were carried out as per another provision (section 22 (N) (II)) of the Maharashtra Police Act, operative parts of which say “in exceptional cases, in public interest, and on account of administrative exigencies, the competent authority shall make mid-term transfers”.
The CM, who also holds the home portfolio, is the competent authority for IPS transfers. Another government official, however, questioned whether the section was applicable to cases involving promotions and transfers.
Formally, the state government has justified the “administrative exigency” by claiming that a mid-term transfer was effected considering the law and order factor on account of the upcoming festive season. “It was necessary that the new police commissioner got time to assess the situation,” said Bakshi. Minister of State (Home) Ranjit Patil echoed his viewpoint. Both ruled out that the row over Maria’s meeting with former IPL chief Lalit Modi in London had any connection with the move.
Bakshi also refuted the suggestion that the government had gone against its own affidavit in the Bombay High Court where it had once said the Mumbai CP was an additional DG-level post and was not available for a DG-rank officer. “It was specific to the case at that time,” Bakshi said, adding there was nothing unusual in upgrading a post in civil services.
Highly placed sources in the home ministry said the decision to bring Ahmad was “based on his personal integrity and competence in the police force”. “An honest and upright IPS officer who was never known for lobbying or self-promotion deserved to lead the city,” said a senior official.
In fact, Ahmad was the frontrunner for the post when the Congress-NCP government took the decision to make Maria the police commissioner. “Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan was in favour of Ahmad being given the post but the late R R Patil of NCP, who held the home portfolio, was keen on Maria,” said the official.
According to a senior Congress leader, Chavan’s decision was unacceptable to the NCP. “Yet, he had withheld the decision for 15 days, but had to go with the NCP as the latter made it clear it would not like any interference from the Congress in portfolios held by NCP ministers,” said the leader.
A senior AICC functionary had reportedly intervened to resolve the stalemate then, after NCP took up the issue with senior Congress leaders in Delhi. A former Congress minister said, “Chavan had no likes and dislikes when it came to selecting the police commissioner. It was felt that being the seniormost officer Ahmad deserved to be given the charge of Mumbai city.”