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The Bombay High Court on Monday questioned state government as to why it cannot accept with “grace” the recommendations of the empanelment committee of Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), of which the then state chief secretary was a member to appoint permanent Director General of Police (DGP) for the state.
The court, while hearing a PIL filed by an advocate seeking direction to Maharashtra government to appoint a permanent DGP, questioned the state government if the then state chief secretary (Sitaram Kunte), who was party to the November 1, 2021 meeting of the panel which had given three recommendations of officers, can later on say the commission had erred.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Makarand S Karnik was informed by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Anil Singh, who represented the UPSC that the panel had recommended names of three officers Hemant Nagrale (present Mumbai CP), Rajnish Seth and K Venkatesham and the name of present acting DGP Sanjay Pandey did not feature in the list recommended by the panel. Singh also said that he agreed with the petitioner’s plea.
The PIL filed by lawyer Datta Shrirang Mane, argued through advocate Abhinav Chandrachud, said that there were media reports that the government planned to continue with acting DGP Pandey till his retirement in June, 2022. However, the same would be against the Supreme Court ruling. The apex court had stated that the state DGP should be appointed from amongst the three senior-most officers of the department who are recommended for promotion as DGP by the UPSC.
The UPSC recommendations are made on the basis of the length of service of officers, good record and range of experience in heading the police force and the incumbent should have minimum tenure of at least two years and as per new ruling, at least six-month tenure, irrespective of his or her date of superannuation and rule of law is interfered with, the PIL said.
The plea said that former DGP Subodh K Jaiswal, who was appointed following recommendations of UPSC had to leave the post as he was appointed as head of central agency and hence was relieved as state police chief on January 7, last year. Thereafter, the UPSC formed a panel for appointment of DGP as per state’s request and in its meeting on November 1, last year, the panel had recommended three names and the said decision was binding on the state government, the PIL said.
The PIL said that in the interim, senior-most officer Sanjay Pandey was given additional/acting charge as DGP and therefore the state has no permanent DGP.
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni for the state government said that there cannot be doubt that the post of DGP should be filled on permanent basis and Pandey, who is senior-most officer in the state is acting as DGP now as the sudden vacancy arose after Jaiswal was posted as head of the central agency.
Kumbhakoni said that while he was not justifying Pandey continuing the charge, the court should also consider the November 8, 2021 correspondence between state and the UPSC which raised objections in the recommendations and the same were raised by the then CS during the selection process. “It was not an afterthought. The issue is sent to UPSC again, let it take a decision one way or another,” he said.
However, CJ Datta referred to past SC judgment and said, “If the then Chief Secretary (Sitaram Kunte) was party to committee and if he had agreed to three recommendations, can he later on say commission was not right in discarding a certain name of aspirant? It was not proper on part of then CS that after a week of signing proceedings, he said commission had erred.He could have given his own independent opinion at that stage. State government cannot now say that its recommendation can be considered by UPSC.”
The HC went on to question, “You (state) are bound by UPSC panel recommendation. Why did the then CS sign proceedings if he was unsure? He should’ve asked other members to defer it (proceedings). Even these three officers who are recommended by panel, due to the delay (in the appointment), may not have two-year tenure. Why don’t you (state) accept it with grace?”
Seeking state’s response, the bench posted further hearing to Tuesday, January 25.
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