Supreme Court directive a step towards pending police reforms

The Supreme Court has done well to restrain States from appointing Directors-General of Police without consulting the Union Public Service Commission. On occasions that have become far too often, States resort to questionable methods to get their choice to the important post, such as first making a person an ‘acting DGP’ and then regularising his service after he retires, so that he gets the laid down fixed two-year tenure.

This sleight of hand violates the spirit of the procedure for appointing the State’s top police officer. Interestingly both the Union Government and the petitioner in the case appeared to be on the same page when arguing the case in the apex court on Tuesday. The Centre lamented that States were misusing the fixed tenure rule while one of the petitioners said that States were doing so have their “own man” in place.

The Parkash Singh judgement of 2006 had directed State regimes to select DGPs based on their seniority and merit and give them a minimum tenure of two years. Now the apex court, after seeing how the rules have been used by States to benefit their favourites, has said that proposals for such appointments must first be referred to the UPSC three months before an incumbent’s retirement and that the UPSC would prepare a panel of names as per the Parkash Singh verdict, bearing in mind the fact that the selected name must have two years to go before he retires. The court also made it clear that the Centre’s and the States’ rule that ran counter to its order will remain in abeyance.

The present intervention by the apex court became necessary after it was found that the States were in contravention of several of the seven directives the Parkash Singh judgement had laid down. In a larger context, it must be pointed out that police reforms have been talked of for decades but have not really taken off. Over these decades, both the Centre and the States have shown laxity and lack of enthusiasm over the various suggestions offered by panels that had been entrusted with making suggestions. Apparently, the political class does not want to lose its grip on the institution of the police. The problem is that this has led to interferences by the political class in police matters, not just in the matter of appointments but also in enforcing law and order. One hopes that the new order of the apex court will to a considerable extent improve matters.

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