MUMBAI, Sep 18 (IANS): Virtually washing its hands off the Sheena Bora murder case, the Maharashtra government on Friday yanked it from Mumbai police and handed over the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Making the surprise announcement, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) K.P. Bakshi said this was to ensure "a fair and impartial probe" into the sensational murder case which broke on August 25.
"For the last few days, since the former Mumbai police commissioner (Rakesh Maria) was replaced by Ahmad Javed, the media has sought to convey the impression that efforts were on to deliberately try and dilly-dally and interfere with the (murder) inquiry," Bakshi told media persons.
However, when the transfers-cum-promotions took place, Bakshi said he had taken great pains to clarify that there was no connection between the administrative decisions and the murder case.
"I am compelled to say that because of this impression being created by certain sections of the media and based on the report of the DGP, we have decided to hand over the case to the CBI," Bakshi said, referring to speculation whether Maria was promoted or 'removed'.
Director General of Police Sanjeev Dayal has submitted a complete status report on the Sheena murder case and also offered his comments on what should be done in future, he added.
After lengthy discussions with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and top police and civil officials on Friday, the state government decided that "not a single state officer should be involved or connected with the investigations".
Besides, Bakshi said there were many other issues like the financial angle which needed to be probed simultaneously with the crime angle in the murder case which could be done by the CBI.
The development raised serious questions about the government's perception of the capabilities of two of its finest DGP-level officials and the Mumbai police -- once said to next only to Britain's Scotland Yard -- to conduct an impartial probe.
Bakshi's comments were apparently prompted by recent reports in a section of the media that new Police Commissioner Javed knew former media tycoon Peter Mukerjea and his wife Indrani -- the prime accused and the victim's mother -- and they had even attended a social function hosted by the police official.
Besides, since his promotional transfer as DGP, Maria has kept away from the investigation, though Bakshi had earlier said the case would be probed by him (Maria) only.
Prior to his transfer, some politicians had hinted that Maria was reportedly close to Peter Mukerjea, but the officer had declined to comment on this.
A former IPS officer, requesting anonymity, told IANS that apart from the financial and crime angles, the investigations need to be conducted in other states like Assam, West Bengal and Uttarakhand, and certain foreign locations, which may have spurred the government to rope in the CBI.
"However, the government must indicate a certain time-frame for the CBI to complete its probe, otherwise, given the past record in such high profile cases, it may soon be forgotten," the retired IPS officer said.
Interestingly, since the changes in the top police echelons, the Sheena murder case already seems to have been relegated to the backburner with little or no known progress in the probe.
Arrested in the last week of August from Mumbai and Kolkata, the three prime accused -- Indrani, her former husband Sanjeev Khanna and her ex-driver Shyamwar Rai -- are presently in judicial custody till September 21.
"We want to convey a clear message to the people that the government has no intentions to interfere in the case and we want a complete and impartial investigation. We have been in touch with the centre and the CBI on this and completed all relevant formalities in the matter," Bakshi explained.
However, he said it was upto the central government to take a final call on whether to accept it and assign it to the CBI or not, depending on its workload.
Sheena, the daughter of Indrani through her college boyfriend Sidharth Das, was allegedly murdered on April 24, 2012 and her half-burnt body was dumped the next day in the forests of Raigad.
It was found on May 25, but local police did not file an FIR or any complaint in the matter, which is now being probed by the present Raigad Superintendent of Police Mohammed Suvez Haque.
Indrani and Das also had a son, Mikhail Bora, who has accused his mother of attempting to kill him, for which police have slapped an extra charge on her.