The Supreme Court Wednesday reiterated its direction to states to select their police chief from a list of officers empanelled by the Union Public Service Commission. It dismissed the applications by Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal, Bihar and Kerala which sought a modification of the Court’s July 3, 2018 order. The states had argued that they made amendments in their law pointing out that police being an exclusive state subject, the choice of the DGP should be left to them.
“On an in-depth consideration, we are left with no doubt that the said directions, keeping in mind the spirit in which the Court has proceeded to issue the same, as set out in paragraph 12 of the judgment in Prakash Singh (supra) (already extracted), are wholesome and if the same are implemented, it will sub- serve public interest until such time that the matter is heard finally,” a bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices L Nageswara Rao and S K Kaul said.
Whose police is it? Centre, states differ
That POLICE reforms should begin at the top has been reiterated by the Supreme Court. A key component, the Court has said, is ensuring stability at the top by prescribing a minimum two-year tenure for the DGP. The Centre and states may be on the same page on the need for reforms, but states continue to find ways to beat the law given their fundamental objection — can the Centre have a role to play in appointing the DGP when police is a state subject.
Even as the Supreme Court reiterated its earlier orders, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet Wednesday approved a one-year extension to Punjab DGP Suresh Arora till September 30, 2019. Arora, appointed on October 25, 2015, was due to retire on September 30, 2018. He was given three more months initially, and the Supreme Court allowed him to continue for one more month till January 31, 2019.
In Rajasthan, which saw a regime change in December 2018, the Congress-led government removed OP Galhotra and appointed Kapil Garg as the DGP. Appointed on November 30, 2017, Galhotra had not completed a minimum two years as mandated by the Supreme Court. Roli Singh, Principal Secretary, Personnel, did not respond to calls and messages.
Chhattisgarh, on the other hand, appointed DM Awasthi as an Acting DGP on December 20, soon after the Congress took over the reins in the state. Awasthi replaced former DGP AN Upadhyay, who had been the DGP since March 2014. “Though the Supreme Court has said there is no concept of an Acting DGP, ours is a case of procedural delay. When the DGP was appointed, the state government wrote to the UPSC to follow all norms and a meeting was scheduled on January 11. But the Chief Secretary could not go because a new CS had been appointed just a day before. We intend to fulfill the requirements,” a state government official said.
Wednesday’s Supreme Court order was in continuation to its 2006 judgment in the landmark Prakash Singh Vs Union of India case in which it said the “Director General of Police (DGP) of the State shall be selected by the State Government from amongst the three seniormost officers of the Department who have been empanelled for promotion to that rank by the Union Public Service Commission on the basis of their length of service, very good record and range of experience for heading the police force. And, once he has been selected for the job, he should have a minimum tenure of at least two years irrespective of his date of superannuation.”
The July 3, 2018 order further clarified the Prakash Singh judgement and asked states to send their proposals in anticipation of the vacancies to the UPSC, at least three months prior to the date of retirement of the incumbent DGP and that the Commission would prepare the panel as per the directions of this Court in the judgment in Prakash Singh’s case.
The Supreme Court also said that the states should “immediately appoint” one of the persons from the panel prepared by UPSC and that “none of the States shall ever conceive of the idea of appointing any person on the post of Director General of Police on acting basis for there is no concept of acting Director General of Police as per the decision in Prakash Singh’s case.”
Attorney General K K Venugopal contended that “All India Services being within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Union, the appointment of the DGP by selection made by the State authorities would be of doubtful legal validity.” He however added that “in deference to the federal structure under the Constitution, the Union had suggested that a composite committee consisting of representatives of the Union Government and the State Government concerned should decide the matter.”
Hearing the matter Tuesday, the Court asked the UPSC Secretary to appraise it whether the empanelment is done by the Commission for the states.
Appearing in the court Wednesday, UPSC Secretary Rakesh Kumar Gupta, told the Court that after the Prakash Singh judgement, “a panel of eligible officers in the rank of DGP or the Additional DGP had been drawn up by a committee of the UPSC, in as many as 12 States.” He added that the committee consisted of representatives of the Commission, the Central government and the state governments concerned.
Gupta also submitted that after the July 3, 2018 order, “similar panels have been drawn up for two States and at present, proposals have been received from two more States for the purpose of drawing up such panels.”
Taking note, the court said “the above practice which has been followed further fortifies our view that, for the present, the directions in Prakash Singh (supra) read with the order of this Court, dated 3.7.2018, would not require any correction or modification.”