ON Tuesday, his trusted orderly was summoned at 5.30 pm to get his car ready. The orderly who has served him for over a decade was surprised. “Finally, I can surprise my wife and go home early before the sun sets,” Rakesh Maria, a 1981 batch officer and the outgoing Mumbai police commissioner, was heard explaining to his orderly.
Hours earlier, Maria, a batch junior to the new Mumbai Police Commissioner Ahmad Javed, was promoted to the rank of Director General (DG) and transferred as Commandant General Home Guards & Director Civil Defence, a post formerly occupied by Javed.
By evening, Maria had left the building.
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“What can one say? It’s an unpredictable world and we are just police officers at the end of the day,” he is learnt to have told people close to him.
The ‘Bandra boy’, as his peers still call him, fancied the uniform. His career defining case was the 1993 blast probe, when he tracked an RDX- laden bike at Katha Bazar, through a trail of abandoned cars and the Memon household.
Overnight, the ‘Bandra boy’, then a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Traffic, became the face of the blast probe. Maria found himself outside the same Al-Hussaini building in Mahim this June 30, monitoring the public mood at Yakub Memon’s funeral.
A decade of postings saw Maria involved in several terror probes including the Gateway Blast, Zaveri blast, and cases linked to the Indian Mujahideen. While some were “open and shut” cases, a phrase he used for speedy probes, he also had his share of controversies.
The German Bakery blast probe saw accused Yasin Bhatkal telling interrogators that the Pune blast was his doing. Himayat Baig had been shown as the main accused by a probe headed by Maria. The cases involving IM are in various courts, with the defence picking holes in Maria’s probe.
Maria has been in the forefront of high-profile interrogations, from questioning Ajmal Kasab, the lone Pakistani terrorist caught on the night of November 26, 2008, to Maria Susairaj.
Vinita Kamte, wife of IPS officer Ashok Kamte slain during the 26/11 terror attacks alleged that her late husband had requested for reinforcements from the control room, a request that was never heeded. The control room was headed by Maria on that fateful night.
His biggest setback was when a sessions court acquitted Indians Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed, shown as co-accused with Kasab in the 26/11 terror attack case. Their acquittal was upheld by the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court.
If there is something the media will miss, it will be his ‘darbar’, the moniker for his police briefings. Maria is known to narrate chases, with details of the accused and the victim, the number plate of a vehicle used, or some plot hatched somewhere. Be it the manner in which he interrogated Sanjay Dutt on the day he was picked up, or details of Arun Gawli’s Dagdi chawl, Maria always has a story to tell.
Maria earlier headed the ATS, Mumbai Crime Branch, but it was the Mumbai Police Commissioner’s post that saw him in a radically new role. Since 2013, he was the first police commissioner to publicly apologise for every wrong of his men. Be it moral policing, where couples were harassed and pulled into police vans from a mall, or when Mumbai Police entered bedrooms, earning them a voyeuristic tag.