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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Punjab: HC questions postings to convicted, chargesheeted cops

Additional Chief Secretary, Home submitted before high court that the Punjab government has decided to constitute a committee to frame a policy with regard to action to be taken in cases where the police officers have been convicted.

Written by Jagpreet Singh Sandhu | Chandigarh |
March 16, 2021 10:40:11 am
Gavel, law, courtThe bench also directed that the status report with regard to the progress made by the committee shall be filed before the next date of hearing, which is April 28.

No police officer who is charge-sheeted or convicted in a criminal case shall remain posted at a post having public dealing, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ordered.

A bench of Justice Anupinder Singh Grewal passed the order while hearing a petition filed by a Punjab Police official against his dismissal.

The petitioner, Surjit Singh through his counsel, Advocate Balbir Kumar Saini had stated that there are several police officers who are facing serious charges and some of them have been convicted but they are continuing in service.

In the matter, Additional Chief Secretary, Home submitted before high court that the Punjab government has decided to constitute a committee to frame a policy with regard to action to be taken in cases where the police officers have been convicted. The counsel for Punjab sought more time to enable the committee to frame a policy. “The committee shall also examine the issue of officers against whom FIRs have been registered and trials are pending as there has to be uniformity in dealing with such cases on the basis of their nature and gravity,” said Justice Grewal.

Further giving directions in the matter, Justice Grewal said, “Till the committee arrives at a decision and considers the individual cases of the officers, no police officer who is charge-sheeted and / or convicted in a criminal case involving moral turpitude, shall remain posted at a post having public dealing. Furthermore they shall not be assigned investigation, either as investigating officer or in a supervisory capacity and will not be posted in the vigilance bureau till the final decision is taken by the committee. They shall also not be posted in the district where their criminal case is being tried.”

The bench also directed that the status report with regard to the progress made by the committee shall be filed before the next date of hearing, which is April 28.

Going by the affidavit filed by the Punjab government regarding the policemen convicted and under trial, Justice Grewal said, “It is disquieting to note that Rajinder Singh Sohal who has been convicted in a criminal case, is posted as SSP of Gurdaspur district. He has been convicted under Sections 342, 343, 346 and 365 read with Section 34 IPC in a CBI case bearing RC No.5(s)/95/SIU-II/ New Delhi, dated August 23, 1995 and sentenced to imprisonment for a period of three years by the Additional Sessions Judge, Patiala on March 11, 2013.”

“A perusal of the record indicates that no application for stay of conviction has been preferred by the officer. Another disturbing aspect is that he is a Punjab Police Service officer and has been posted as SSP, Gurdaspur which is an IPS cadre post. In response to query of this Court, learned State counsel has informed that Sohal is at serial number 636 in the PPS seniority list. He, however, submits that the matter pertaining to inter se seniority of the PPS officers is pending adjudication before this court. The continuation of such an officer at the post of SSP, who is the district head of the police force, would erode the confidence of the people in the police administration apart from being an affront to the rule of law. Therefore, the competent authority should consider transferring him from the post forthwith”, ordered Justice Grewal.

Having been informed that there are several other PPS officers who have been posted as SSPs of various districts in violation of the IPS (Cadre) Rules, 1954 read with Indian Police Service (Fixation of Cadre Strength) Regulations, 1955, Justice Grewal said, “I deem it appropriate to implead the Union of India through Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs as respondent number 5 to assist the court to look into these apparent violations.”

“It is apparent that there is arbitrariness in dealing with officers facing criminal cases which is the grouse of petitioner. In our system of governance administered by rule of law, the government cannot act like an absolute despot at its whims and fancies by patronizing certain officers while imparting a step-motherly treatment to others. It is, thus, the need of the hour to put in place a proper structure”, the bench said.

It also appointed Advocate Kshitij Sharma as amicus curiae to assist the court.

The bench directed the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Punjab to file an affidavit by the next date to explain as to why PPS officers have been posted as SSPs of several districts on IPS cadre posts.

The bench also taking strict view over the affidavit filed by Additional Chief Secretary of Punjab, Anurag Aggarwal, revealing a candid admission by him qua certain false information disclosed in his earlier affidavit, said, “The Additional Chief Secretary should have taken due care and caution as it is expected from the administrative Head of the Department to disclose the entire information as had been sought by the Court… Concealment or not disclosing the information sought, amounts to swearing a false affidavit. The filing of false affidavit has the tendency to subvert, obstruct, impede and interfere in the due course of judicial proceedings, which cannot be overlooked especially when the affidavit has been filed by a senior government officer. Besides, contempt of court, filing of a false affidavit, would amount to giving false evidence under Section 191 IPC and would be punishable under Section 193 IPC. Before directing institution of a criminal complaint before the competent Judicial Magistrate for the prosecution of the officer for perjury, I deem it appropriate to issue him notice.”

Thus seeking a report within four weeks from him, Justice Grewal issued notice to Aggarwal asking him to reply why directions be not issued for filing a complaint with the judicial magistrate for the offence of perjury, punishable under Section 193 IPC.

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