Mumbai: The 15 seconds of front-row fame for the Sheena Bora murder case seem to be slipping through the hourglass - not soon enough for many who felt a tabloid story was being paraded as the news by TV channels.
The Maharashtra government has indicated that it may abandon an earlier decision to allow senior police officer Rakesh Maria to head the murder investigation. "I have asked the Director General of Police Sanjeev Dayal to review the case and send me a status report. Once we get the report we will check if Mr Maria is needed to guide the officers," said KP Bakshi, a top bureaucrat in the Home Ministry to mid-day.com.
Mr Maria is equally reluctant to remain in charge of the case, sources close to him told NDTV. The 58-year-old had spent several hours personally interrogating the suspects and their associates before an unceremonious transfer as the police chief of Mumbai about two weeks ago. Within hours of his hasty transfer, which was followed by equally swift public criticism, the government said Mr Maria would bring the case to its logical conclusion.
Former police officers questioned the viability of that decision. Sources close to Mr Maria said he felt he had been flogged for doing his job -leading a complex investigation involving players whose power and wealth could influence the case - such things are not unheard of in India. Also, his juniors had reportedly complained that Indrani Mukerjea, one of the alleged killers, was insistent on communicating with them only in English, which left them disadvantaged and intimidated.
Sheena Bora was 24 when she was killed in Mumbai in 2012. About three weeks ago, Indrani Mukerjea, former media executive, was arrested for the murder, a development that also outed her as the mother of the young woman she had steadfastly introduced as her sister. The police claims that Indrani Mukerjea, 43, collaborated with ex husband Sanjeev Khanna and driver Shyamvar Rai to abduct and strangle Ms Bora, whose body was then set on fire in a forest. In April 2012, Ms Mukerjea told friends and family that Ms Bora had moved to the US.
Mr Maria has also questioned former Star CEO Peter Mukerjea, who is Ms Mukerjea's husband, about the case. Sources say the line of inquiry focused on the couple's financial deals after a somewhat unseemly exit from the broadcasting group INX Media that they founded in 2007. Mr Mukerjea's son from an earlier marriage, Rahul, was engaged to Ms Bora when she was killed.
Mr Maria was replaced by Ahmed Javed as Police Commissioner, who made it clear that he would not lead the investigation from the front. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who ordered Mr Maria's transfer, had said that all cases in Mumbai should get equal attention, telegraphing that he was unhappy with Mr Maria's zeal for the Sheena Bora inquiry. The government however claims that the oddly-timed transfer was engineered to ensure the new police chief was in office for the busy festival season.
Since Mr Maria was removed, there have been few developments. The police says it has 90 days to file a chargesheet, explaining the evidence it has collected, against Ms Mukerjea and the other two suspects.