In a major embarrassment for Mumbai police chief Rakesh Maria, Maharashtra's transparency watchdog has recommended a judicial inquiry against him for "withholding and giving misleading" information to the wife of an IPS officer killed during the 26/11 terror attacks.
Chief Information Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad, in a recent order, asked the state government to institute an inquiry headed by a sitting or retired judge under Commission of Inquiry Act to go into why "misleading" information was provided to Vinita Kamte, wife of slain IPS officer Ashok Kamte, by Maria.
"Considering the information available, it looks like in this matter misleading information was provided, deliberately no information was shared or information was destroyed, delays were caused in providing information etc. And the commission agrees with the doubts raised by the complainant (Vinita Kamte)," Gaikwad said in a scathing 3-page order passed on July 9.
"Hence, I order the state government through the chief secretary to initiate an inquiry under the Commission of Enquiry Act 1952 headed by a sitting or retired judge," the order said.
Maria as Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) had led the probe into the brazen terror assault launched by 10 Pakistani terrorists on November 26, 2008 and was heading the police control room for some time during the 59-hour siege.
Vinita Kamte had under RTI sought call logs of wireless conversations between the control room and Kamte's van in which he was killed with Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare and encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar.
She had alleged the details were first denied to her. However, when information was provided in November 2009 and February 2010, there were "serious discrepancies".
"Maria did not allow information to be shared with Vinita Kamte. It is highly irresponsible. Is he trying to hide some information in the matter? It looks like if an impartial inquiry is not initiated then Vinita and the public will not be able to receive true information," the order that read like a virtual indictment of Maria, who took over as Mumbai police c commissioner in February this year, said.
Vinita has accused Maria of not telling her who sent her husband towards Cama Hospital where he was killed even though he was in charge of the main control room during the first few hours of the attack.
The xommission criticised Maria and Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Amitabh Rajan, saying they did not attend two previous hearings, which showed their lack of seriousness about the entire incident.
"Maria gave various reasons for not attending the hearings, while Rajan did not give any reason for remaining absent," Gaikwad said.
After Kamte's lawyers had raised the issue of certain discrepancies in information provided to her about the call logs, regarding timings mentioned in those, and raised doubts about their manipulation, the commission had asked Rajan to probe it. Her lawyer had claimed there was a difference if six minutes in the call logs and main voice logger was not secured.
"Instead of he himself (Rajan) conducting an inquiry into the incident, Rajan relied on the findings of the officers, who themselves were under the scanner, and then submitted the report.
"This is a very serious matter as he did not follow the commission's order. Such behaviour does not befit a senior bureaucrat," the CIC said.
Kamte had also claimed she was given two completely different call log records from the south control room. The state had, meanwhile, submitted a different call record in the charge sheet it filed in the case.
Quoting Assistant Police Commissioner Vijay Makane, the CIC said he told the panel that "conversations saved in a hard disk can be retained for a specific period and then it automatically gets destroyed as the memory of the hard disk is limited. We will also seek the manufacturer's opinion and submit a report in eight days."
"However, it has been 12 days but no manufacturer's opinion was received through the government," he said.
The government's lawyer's contention that the discrepancies in call records were "negligible" and that allegedly misleading information was not given deliberately did not cut ice with the transparency watchdog which ordered a judicial probe.
In a book 'To The Last Bullet' co-authored by her, Vinita had blamed Maria for not sending reinforcements to help her husband, appearing to give wrong information about the shootout that left three officers dead, and not helping them get medical assistance after they had been shot.
Following the allegations levelled against him in the book that was released in 2009, Maria, one of the most high-profile IPS officers in the country, had reportedly offered to resign.
Maria and Rajan were not immediately available for comments.
Image: Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria
Photograph: Sahil Salvi