Holding that the Central Administrative Tribunal “exceeded its power of judicial review by transgressing into the domain of law and against the settled position of law regarding the judicial review of the decisions/recommendations of the Selection Committee”, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday set aside the order of the CAT (Chandigarh bench) which quashed the appointment of Dinkar Gupta as the Punjab DGP.
The division bench of Justice Jaswant Singh and Justice Sant Parkash, allowing the petitions of Dinkar Gupta and state of Punjab challenging the CAT order, held that “the Tribunal erred in holding that the Draft Guidelines-2009 and the procedure adopted by the UPSC/Empanelment Committee for the selection of the DGP (Head of Police Force) for the state of Punjab in January-February 2019 was in contravention of the Prakash Singh’s judgment (supra). The procedure adopted by UPSC/Empanelment Committee and the Minutes of meeting of the Empanelment Committee dated 04.02.2019 and consequential order dated 07.02.2019 by state of Punjab are held to be valid and legal.”
The court stated that the findings of the Tribunal that the entire selection process and consequential appointment of DG to the contrary to the judgment of the Supreme Court and orders passed in July 3, 2018 and January 16, 2019 is erroneous and liable to be set aside.
Regarding the plea of the respondents that the parameters set by the Empanelment Committee were tailormade to suit Dinkar Gupta, the HC held that “the argument raised regarding tailor made criteria attributed to the Empanelment Committee has no basis and foundation being pleaded or proved before this court and is rather a bald statement of fact which when pleaded needs, in normal course of pleadings, a strict standard of proof”.
“It is settled law that the courts have to be slow in drawing conclusions when it comes to holding allegations of mala fides to be proved and only in cases where based on the material placed before the court or facts that are admitted leading to inevitable inferences supporting the charge of mala fides that the court should record a finding of mala fides. The argument is thus rejected on this score alone,” ruled the division bench.
The bench said that in the judgment dated September 22, 2006 and the subsequent orders passed by the Supreme Court has specified broad criteria for empanelling officers for appointment to the post of DGP and left it to the UPSC to frame detailed modalities for holding such selection.
The bench further said that the Draft Guidelines-2009 issued by the UPSC incorporates the four broad criteria to be followed which is length of service, very good record, range of experience and residual service, for heading the police force are incorporated.
In the present case, the Draft Guidelines-2009 by the UPSC, the 5 Core Policing Areas are held to be proper and valid in the preceding discussion and there is no malafides/collusion alleged against the Empanelment Committee, leaves no scope of interference in the selection made by the Empanelment Committee towards the assessment of the officers for empanelment for appointment as DGP (HoPF) for the state of Punjab in February 2019, said the bench.
The HC said that it is consistent and settled law that it is not open to the Tribunal and the High Court to sit over the assessment made by the Selection Committee as an Appellate Authority or venture into the comparative merit of the candidates.
“No doubt the provisions of Draft Guidelines-2009 have been placed and approved by the Supreme Court, as also upheld by us hereabove, however, with utmost humility, in order to strengthen the implementation of the true intent of the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court passed in Parakash Singh’s case, we request UPSC to consider this aspect towards necessary modifications, if any, after seeking approval from Hon’ble Supreme Court,” said the HC bench.
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