Officers who have a minimum of six months of service left before retirement would be eligible for empanelment by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for selection to the post of Director General of Police (DGP) in states, the Supreme Court said Wednesday. Clarifying the top court's July 3 order of last year, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that recommendation for appointment of DGP by the UPSC and preparation of panel should be purely on the basis of merit from officers who have a minimum residual tenure of six months.
"We, therefore, clarify the order of this court dated July 3, 2018....to mean that recommendation for appointment to the post of Director General of Police by the Union Public Service Commission and preparation of panel should be purely on the basis of merit from officers who have a minimum residual tenure of six months i.e. officers who have at least six months of service prior to the retirement," said the bench, also comprising Justices L N Rao and Sanjiv Khanna. The bench passed the order on an application filed by former DGP of Uttar Pradesh, Prakash Singh.
Singh had alleged that the July 3, 2018 directive, asking UPSC to consider only those IPS officers for appointment as DGP who have two years of service left, was being misused by state governments who were ignoring competent senior officers. He had said that after the apex court's last year order, the UPSC while empanelling officers for consideration for appointment as DGP was considering the minimum residual tenure required to be taken into account as two years.
The apex court had in July last year passed a slew of directions on police reforms and restrained all states and Union territories from appointing any police officer as acting DGPs to avoid favouritism and nepotism in such high-level appointments. In its order passed on Wednesday, the bench referred to the 2006 verdict of the apex court which had said that an officer would have a minimum tenure of two years after he or she was appointed as the DGP.
"The direction issued by this court neither contemplated the appointment of a Director General of Police on the eve of his retirement nor the practice now adopted by the Union Public Service Commission in making the empanelment, i.e. empanelling officers who have at least two years of tenure," the bench noted. "Neither this court had contemplated a recommendation for appointment of officers who are on the verge of retirement or appointment of officers who have a minimum residual tenure of two years. The emphasis was to select the best and to ensure a minimum tenure of two years' service of such officer who is to be selected and appointed," the bench said.
The court referred to the Police Acts enacted by states and said they also do not contemplate any fixed residual tenure for an officer to be recommended for appointment as the DGP. "In the above conspectus the object in issuing the directions in Prakash Singh (2006 verdict), in our considered view, can best be achieved if the residual tenure of an officer i.e. remaining period of service till normal retirement, is fixed on a reasonable basis, which, in our considered view, should be a period of six months," it said.
The bench said, "This will take care of any possible action on the part of the state government which can be viewed by any quarter as an act of favouritism." The bench made it clear that its direction will "hold the field" until validity of Police Acts of states are examined and dealt with by the apex court.
Singh, on whose PIL the directions on police reforms were passed, had alleged his application that the specific direction that IPS officers should have minimum two years of services left for being considered for the post of DGPs was being used to deny the promotion to "competent" and "honest" officers by states for their vested interest. "Due to this, brilliant police officers have been overlooked just because they do not have two years of services left. The UPSC says that it will not consider these officers," advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the former DGP, had told the court.
Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, had opposed the plea and said the earlier order was passed keeping in mind the practice of appointing police officers, on the verge of retirement, as DGPs by some states. Chronicling the steps to be taken for appointment of the DGP, the apex court had earlier said: "All the states shall send their proposals in anticipation of the vacancies to the UPSC well in time, at least three months prior to the date of retirement of the incumbent on the post of DGP".
It had said the UPSC should then prepare a panel as per the earlier directions of the court and intimate it to the states, which in turn shall immediately appoint one of the persons from that list. The UPSC, while considering the names for empanelment, should look for those people as far as practicable with clear two years of service left before superannuation, it said.
The apex court on September 8 last year had agreed to hear a clutch of pleas observing that its historic 2006 verdict on police reforms, recommending steps like fixed tenures for DGPs and Superintendents of Police (SPs), has not yet been implemented by states and Union territories.
(With inputs from agencies.)