The Supreme Court Wednesday dismissed the pleas of five states seeking modification of its directions which had set out selection procedure and the two- year minimum fixed tenure for the director general of police (DGP), saying the 2006 verdict wanted to insulate police machinery from "political" and "executive" interference.
Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal, Kerala and Bihar had moved the apex court seeking modification of the 2006 verdict on police reforms and its subsequent July 3, 2018 order dealing with the selection procedure and fixed tenure of DGPs on the ground that they have enacted local laws or procedures on these aspects.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi noted that in the verdict, the court had devised the mechanism of selection and fixed tenure of DGPs "while seeking to resolve the issue of insulation of the police machinery from political/executive interference" and the directions were "wholesome" and if implemented, would subserve "public interest".
"The practice (of selection having UPSC play a role in empanelling IPS officers for appointment as DGPs) which has been followed further fortifies our view that, for the present, the directions in Prakash Singh (judgement) read with the order of this court, dated July 3, 2018, would not require any correction or modification. All the applications (of five states) are dismissed accordingly," the bench, also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and S K Kaul, said.
On the selection and tenure of DGP, the apex court, in 2006, had directed that the police chief shall be selected by the state government from three senior-most police officers who have been empanelled for promotion to that rank by the UPSC on the basis of their "length of service, very good record and range of experience for heading the police force".
It had also said that once an officer has been selected for the job, he or she should have a minimum tenure of at least two years irrespective of his date of superannuation.
The judgement had further said that the DGP may, however, be relieved of his responsibilities by the state acting in consultation with the State Security Commission on grounds like "conviction in a criminal offence or in a case of corruption, or if he is otherwise incapacitated from discharging his duties".
The directions were reiterated by the apex court on July 3, 2018 when it further directed that the states cannot appoint any acting DGP and will have to follow the selection procedure with UPSC's role in it.
It had passed a slew of directions on police reforms and stated that the states will have to send a list of senior police officers to the UPSC at least three months prior to the retirement of the incumbent.
Modifications of these directions were sought by states like Punjab which enacted a local law in 2007.
The law provided separate selection procedures having no role of the UPSC in the empanelment of senior police officers for appointment as DGPs. Punjab, in 2018, amended the law.
The apex court noted that a plea challenging the local law of Punjab was already pending before it and "any expression of opinion of this court on the contentions raised may have the effect of pre-judging the issues arising in the writ petition..."
"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 ...., are wholesome and if the same are implemented, it will subserve public interest until such time that the matter is heard finally," it said.
UPSC Secretary Rakesh Kumar Gupta, who appeared before the court, said that in pursuance of the judgement, a panel of eligible officers in the rank of DGP or the additional DGP had been drawn up by a committee of commission in as many as 12 states and panels consisted of representatives of the UPSC, the Centre and the state governments concerned.
Taking note of the prevalent practice, the court said it further "fortifies" the view that, for the present, the directions would not require any correction or modification.
The apex court, while deciding the PIL filed by two former DGPs Prakash Singh and N K Singh in 2006, had issued several directions, including setting up of a state security commission, to ensure that the government does not exercise unwarranted influence on the police.
It had said the appointment of DGPs and police officers should be merit-based and transparent and officers like DGPs and Superintendents of Police (SPs) should have a minimum fixed tenure of two years.