Defending its decision to post IPS officer Rakesh Maria as the new Mumbai police commissioner, the Maharashtra government on Monday asserted that it went strictly by "merits" in the appointment.
"We have purely followed the rules. There is a rule, there is a government resolution (GR), an ordinance signed by the governor by which the Police Establishment Board (PEB) was set up. We have gone by it," Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan told media persons in Karad in Satara.
Home Minister RR Patil said here that the Mumbai police commissioner's post is not just about seniority and the government has never appointed anyone to the post on the basis of seniority alone.
"We also considered who would be able to serve the position for the longest time. In police department, we don't follow race, creed or religion... we have never done it," Patil said, endorsing Chavan's stand.
The state government's move to appoint Maria to the sensitive post last Saturday received flak from various quarters over claims that at least two strong contenders being overlooked amidst murmurs of pressures by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) - a part of the ruling coalition.
The two are Additional Director General of Police Javed Ahmed, now promoted as director general, home guards, and Additional Director General of Police (Traffic) Vijay Kamble, now made Thane's police commissioner.
While Ahmed has expressed his "disappointment" at being denied the post though he was next in the queue after incumbent Satya Pal Singh quit the force to join politics, Kamble has still not taken charge of his new assignment.
Rajya Sabha member and economist Bhalchandra Mungekar said here Monday that the state government's decision was "injustice to both Ahmed and Kamble."
Republican Party of India-A chief Ramdas Athawale has cried foul over a Dalit (Kamble) being denied the coveted post and expressed the party's willingness to fight on his behalf.
Unfazed by the reactions, Patil claimed that nobody has informed him of the grievances of the two officers (Ahmed and Kamble) on the issue.
"If they do, I talk to them," Patil said, rejecting suggestions that his NCP pressurised Chavan into agreeing to Maria's appointment.
Around midnight last Saturday, the state government had finalized the appointments of 86 IPS officers across the state, racing to keep up with the Election Commission deadline on the matter of transfers and appointments before the ensuing Lok Sabha elections.
The most important post - the head of Mumbai police commissionerate, which lay vacant for 15 days after Singh's resignation - was enveloped in controversy following Maria's appointment.