At a time when the Supreme Court has taken an extremely harsh view of apparent interference from Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and the Prime Ministers Office in the working of the CBI,little has deterred Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil from seizing control of the Maharashtra Police over the past couple of years. The meddling now extends to policing aspects which have traditionally remained beyond the political executive,leaving the police establishment fuming.
In the latest move,Patil has vested his department with powers to promote police officers from the rank of sub-inspector,the first officer-level post. While retired Mumbai police officers and bureaucrats have raised alarm bells,DGP Sanjeev Dayal has taken up the matter with the Home Department,but to no avail so far. Last year,the department had wrested the power to transfer police officers.
Patil is known for his hands-on approach,but former officers point out that this extends to picking up the phone and relaying operational instructions directly to district superintendents of police. Bypassed on such occasions,the DGP has taken up the issue with the Home Minister. While increasing political interference in police promotions and transfers is disastrous for the discipline of any force,the Maharashtra Police has anyway been plagued with groupism and lobbying. Clipping the DGPs powers could create multiple power centres and lead to instances of insubordination. It would also add to the tendency of police officers currying favour with politicians.
The Supreme Courts directions in the Prakash Singh case on police reforms dictate that promotions and transfers of officers up to the SP rank be decided by the DGP. However,the Maharashtra government follows the Maharashtra Government Servants Regulation of Transfers & Prevention of Delays in Discharge of Official Duties Act 2005. It was introduced in July 2006,with Patil playing a lead role as deputy chief minister,with the noble intention of regulating the tenure of postings and transfers of officers.
While the protocol for transfers and postings is clearly delineated for other departments,there is no clarity on who should take such decisions for the police force. The DGP has been kept out under the Act. Successive Maharashtra DGPs have urged that police transfers and promotions be governed by the Bombay Police Act,or a revised police Act that is being framed.
Sagnik is a deputy city editor based in Mumbai and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org