Above: Prakash Singh (file picture)/Photo: Anil Shakya
Supreme Court ruled that States must approach UPSC mandatorily three months before the retirement of incumbent DGP for selection of police chief
Issuing a slew of directives that States must, henceforth, follow for appointing their respective police chiefs, the Supreme Court, on Tuesday (July 3), ruled that Directors General of Police (DGPs) must have a fixed term of two years in office, irrespective of their superannuation.
The top court has also ruled that States cannot appoint acting DGPs.
The order of the Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud came during hearing of a petition filed by Prakash Singh, former DGP of Assam and Uttar Pradesh and one of the country’s most respected police reform activists.
It may be recalled that the Supreme Court had, in 2006, issued a set of seven directives on police reforms to the Centre and all States after hearing a petition filed by Singh. Those directives, issued as part of the landmark verdict in the Prakash Singh versus Union of India case, 2006, said:
- Set up State Security Commissions (SSC) comprising the Leader of Opposition, judges and independent members to ensure that the state police is able to function independent of unwarranted government control, influence or pressure.
- The Director General of Police (DGP) to be selected from amongst the three senior-most officers and to have a minimum tenure of 2 years.
- Minimum tenure of I.G. of Police and other officers on operational duties should also have a prescribed minimum tenure of two years.
- Separate wing for investigation of cases
- Set up Police Establishment Board (PEB) for all transfers, postings, promotions and service matters of officers up to the Dy Superintendent of Police rank, and to hear their appeals.
- Set up Police Complaints Authority: Both at the state and district levels to hear complaints against police officers up to the rank of Dy Superintendent of Police.
- Set up National Security Commission (NSC) for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organisations (CPOs) and to review the effectiveness of the police forces.
Put in perspective of the Supreme Court’s Prakash Singh verdict, the directives issued on Tuesday are, in a sense, a reiteration of the court’s 2006 judgment – at least in part. In an interview to India Legal in May this year, Prakash Singh had lamented the fact that though the top court had passed a slew of directives on police reforms back in 2006, a majority of the States had either not adopted these measures till date, or worse, sought to dilute the directives by way of passing legislation in their respective Assemblies.
Former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Justice (retd.) AP Shah, too, had told India Legal then that while there is no denying that the states had failed to instil reforms in the police force, the “Supreme Court seems to have abdicated its responsibility in ensuring that the order passed by it on police reforms in 2006 was also complied with and if it wasn’t then the errant states should be held in contempt”.
It is also important to emphasise that the failure of States to comply with the directives issued by the Supreme Court in 2006 had forced Singh to move contempt pleas against errant States in the top court. Singh had told India Legal that the contempt pleas filed by him in the apex court against several non-compliant state governments were not even being taken up for hearing. “Under the incumbent Chief Justice of India (CJI), the matter has been listed four times though there has been no progress. The two previous chief justices (TS Thakur and JS Khehar) had not even heard it,” the retired IPS officer had said.
Thus, the court’s order, issued on Tuesday, comes after Singh’s long quest for judicial redressal of an issue as important as reforming the state of policing in the country.
In fact, during the hearing of the case on Tuesday, Attorney General KK Venugopal even conceded that “only 5 States, namely Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, had complied with the suggestion of the UPSC (on appointment of DGPs) while 24 had simply avoided doing so.”
Venugopal, however, also argued that while the Centre agreed with the Supreme Court’s verdict in Prakash Singh 2006, that mandated a fixed two year tenure for DGPs, what seemed to be preventing the States from implementing the verdict was the bureaucratic delays on part of the State governments in finalising a shortlist of prospective successors to incumbent DGPs and sending them in time to the UPSC.
The Supreme Court then ruled that States have to mandatorily approach the UPSC with its proposal of candidates three months before the retirement of the incumbent DGP. The UPSC must then select three candidates from which the State should select once candidate as the DGP. The court expressly prohibited States from appointing acting DGPs.
The top court has also ruled that superannuation of candidates before the tenure of two years should not come in the way of selection of candidates as DGP but added that the UPSC could take into account the retirement age of candidates while drawing up its shortlist. However, the court made it clear that once a candidate is appointed as the DGP, he/she will get to serve in office for two years irrespective superannuation.
Additionally, States and Union Territories have been directed that the DGP must be appointed from only among those candidates who have been shortlisted by the UPSC.