The race for a new Director General of Police in Uttarakhand has, once again, brought in focus the selection process and tenure of the chief of the State police force and the fact that the Uttarakhand Government has failed to abide by directives of the Supreme Court in this regard.
After hearing a PIl on police reforms for ten years, the apex court in 2006 ordered seven directives to be implemented in every State until, importantly, the States enacted laws that would comply with these directions in letter and spirit. However, the Uttarakhand Police Act, 2007 passed pursuant to this judgment is in contravention of the Supreme Court on many counts, including the selection process and fixed tenure of the DGP.
In an attempt to free recruitment procedures from vitiation of political recommendations and secure functional autonomy to the top cop, the Supreme Court in its judgment ordered that, "The Director General of Police of the State shall be selected by the State Government from amongst the three senior-most 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."
Two key points here are inclusion of UPSC in panel selection and fixed tenure of two years regardless of superannuation. While the first directive is to restrict the choice to deserving and capable officers, secure tenure aims to free a DGP from unnecessary political interference and make them direct their force impartially.
However, as also admitted by Principal Secretary, Home, Om Prakash talking to The Pioneer, Uttarakhand Government has kept UPSC out of this empanelment process. The tenure of DGP, too, is subject to retirement. Vijay Raghav Pant was appointed DGP for only six months as he then retired. Satyavrat superannuates at the end of this month after serving as the DGP for one year.
A certain minimum period of service is necessary to enable the police chief to do justice to his role. Frequent changes affect planning and direction of the state police," pointed out reform activist Abhaya Sharma. An examination of the Police Act, 2007 indicates that Uttarakhand government is not prepared to loosen its grip over the police force and lay down a transparent procedure for the selection of Police Chiefs. "It seems that Uttarakhand has drafted laws with a view to circumvent the implementation of Supreme Court's directions, rather than making a sincere attempt to bring in urgent police reforms," commented Supreme Court lawyer, Shipra Khazanchi.
The method of selection of DGP has not been spelt out, leaving the top cop's appointment prey to politicization and subjectivity. An officer in the police headquarters who did not wish to be named asserted that the selection of the DGP or other senior officers was always done as per seniority alone, unless there were specific reasons for overlooking the seniority and the appointing authority was required to record such reasons in writing in the file as to why senior officers were superseded. However, in practice, no such reasons were given in the file for ignoring promotion of senior officers, he claimed.
Another senior police officer, on conditions of anonymity, asserted that corruption in the selection of the DGP of Uttarakhand was rampant. "There are multiple incidents when a junior officer has been selected for the post of DGP due to his political connections, sidelining an officer with more seniority and rage of experience. last year, around four months before his retirement from the post of DGP, Jyoti Swaroop Pandey was made head of the one-member Police Reform Commission in a hurried manner, without following the mandatory process. Rules were violated in the establishment of this commission. The real motive was to appoint Vijay Raghav Pant as the D.G.P, Uttarakhand before he retired because of his political clout. Why was Satyavrat Bansal, an IPS officer of 1976 batch, who was two years senior to Pant and eligible to replace JS Pandey as the DGP sidelinedIJ Pant was selected for the position because the state government wanted to see him as DGP."
On May 17, 2008 the Supreme Court constituted a Monitoring Committee headed by Justice KT Thomas to oversee the implementation of its directions in the States and Union Territories and also examine the legislations enacted by different states to see whether those were in compliance with the letter and spirit of the Court's directions.
Uttarakhand Government has asked for a period of three months to bring on record in the apex court, status of compliance with its directions in Prakash Singh's case, stated Principal Secretary, Home, Om Prakash in an interview with The Pioneer. He admitted that Uttarakhand Police Act, 2007 complied only partially with the directions of the Supreme Court.
According to retired DGP (Prosecution), Aloke B lal, "If the State police forces get necessary functional autonomy, the scourge of political interference will reduce, and the need to transfer cases to CBI will reduce appreciably. After all, it is officers from various states who are deputed to the CBI. The same talent can be developed in the States also, provided the State Government is serious about improving police."