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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Bombay HC reserves verdict in PIL seeking ‘permanent’ DGP in Maharashtra

“The apex court had stated that a permanent DGP should have at least six-month tenure, irrespective of his or her date of superannuation and rule of law is interfered with,” the PIL said.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
January 25, 2022 7:48:01 pm
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The Bombay High Court Tuesday concluded its hearing and reserved its verdict in a PIL filed by an advocate seeking direction to the Maharashtra government to appoint a permanent Director General of Police (DGP) as per recommendations made by the empanelment committee of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

The PIL filed by advocate Datta Shrirang Mane also sought the government to place records in connection with the “inordinate delay” in not following the Supreme Court directions, which had said that appointments of a permanent DGP should be made from a list of three officers recommended by the UPSC.

“The apex court had stated that a permanent DGP should have at least six-month tenure, irrespective of his or her date of superannuation and rule of law is interfered with,” the PIL said.

The High Court was told that the panel recommended names of three officers — Hemant Nagrale (present Mumbai Commissioner of Police), Rajnish Seth and K Venkatesham — and added that the name of present acting DGP, Sanjay Pandey, did not feature in the list.

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A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Makarand S Karnik Monday, while referring to the earlier Supreme Court judgment, had asked the Maharashtra government why it cannot accept with “grace” the recommendations of the UPSC committee, of which the then state chief secretary Sitaram Kunte was a member, to appoint a permanent DGP for the state.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni for the state government Tuesday responded, “It is not my case that the state wants to appoint him (Pandey) as DGP. My entire case is he needs to be empanelled by the UPSC and whatever choices the government would make will make. Pandey is senior-most and he was wrongly or illegally excluded from the list and we want the UPSC to take a call.”

The High Court questioned Kumbhakoni, “Do you have any semblance of right to call upon the UPSC to sort of review its decision? More you argue, the more you show former CS in poor light…If he had doubts on November 1, 2021, he should’ve asked other committee members to keep the meeting in abeyance or defer it or to get this observation recorded in minutes of the meeting. After a week, he said the committee had erred. Is this what is expected of a former CS?”

Advocate Chandrachud submitted that the state government had no other option as per the UPSC guidelines and it has to choose from the three names. He added, “The administration of law and order should not fall in the hands of the political class and therefore, there cannot be ‘acting’ DGP of state as per the SC judgment. Even the intervenor (Pandey) has less than six months left in his tenure as he retires in June, 2022.”

After the court asked if the decision of the UPSC committee was binding on the state, Chandrachud responded in affirmative and said that the state government may, “under the guise of asking UPSC to reconsider the recommendations, try to perpetuate a tenure of a person holding post in acting capacity”.

Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh for the UPSC concurred with the petitioner and said that the state must act on recommendations of the committee as it cannot object to the same at this stage.

Senior advocate Navroz Seervai, representing Pandey, submitted that his client is senior-most officer with integrity and a good track record score and he would be the “most affected party” in case the court passes an order in the PIL adverse to him, therefore he should be made party to the case.

“They might be qualities for higher post but these qualities do not give right to you (Pandey) to cling on to a position. Unless you show us your right being infringed, we cannot make you party to the case,” the bench said.

“So far, the state government or you haven’t challenged UPSC recommendations in court of law. You want us to examine in PIL if UPSC is excluding his right? Please do not enlarge the scope of PIL by bringing in issues which are foreign to our consideration,” the court told Seervai and allowed him to put forth his written submissions by Thursday.

The court then concluded the hearing and reserved its verdict, which will be pronounced in due course.

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