‘Bring police and public order under concurrent list … there’s much change since Constitution was drafted’
Police force in Punjab seemed to be in disarray last week after UPSC shortlisted three candidates for the state government to choose a new chief. A fallout of the decision was that Punjab government had to transfer many officers who are senior to the new chief. Prakash Singh,a former IPS officer, whose PIL in Supreme Court seeking changes in the police structure was fundamental to this selection system, spoke to Sanjeev Verma about it and the challenge of political interference:
How do you see UPSC’s decision of recommending a panel of three 1987 batch IPS officers for Punjab DGP’s post, ignoring at least two senior officers?
I think original mandate of the Supreme Court is being misunderstood and given an interpretation which was not the intent of the Supreme Court. I would only say that the original mandate of the Supreme Court in the 2006 judgment had not laid down any straitjacket formula that the officers must have clear two years of service left. It said the three senior-most officers of the department would be selected on basis of their length of service and range of experience.
Try to understand practical implications of this. An officer having say 18 months of service left and perhaps he is outstanding; if he is overlooked for promotion, then what is the alternative before him? Either he serves under an officer junior to him or he submits his papers and goes home. This is not a happy situation and unfair to the IPS officers. We should not go from one extreme to the other.
This confusion happened because some states started appointing officers who were left with one day or two days of service. This was taken notice of by the Supreme Court and it said this must stop. But in the process, there was some confusion at some stage that it must be more than two years of service. It was wrong to have promoted officers who are left with a week or a day to retire as the DGPs. But it is equally wrong to say that an officer must clearly be left with more than two years of service.
Similarly, Bihar has appointed a 1987 batch IPS officer as DGP.
I am aware of the Bihar case. I know how this mischief of the wrong interpretation of the Supreme Court judgment has happened. But I am sorry, I do not want to comment on that. Suffice it to say that some people are bent upon subverting the Supreme Court directions and in the process humiliating senior IPS officers.
The Supreme Court had issued directions in 2006 on your PIL to protect police officials from political interference. Do you see any change after 13 years? There is no change visible. Political interference continues. It is a battle between the Centre and the states. The policemen are being used as pawns and they are getting harmed professionally. Even officers themselves are to blame but the point is why should we blame the officers when no one in the country has cared to insulate them from the outside pressure? Not every officer has the courage to say, ‘To hell with your directions and I’ll do this only.’ There are officers of that calibre, but their number is very small. You are also planning to move an interlocutory application in the Supreme Court on this issue. What are your contentions? I am in the process of moving the interlocutory application. It would not be proper for me to disclose the contents but whatever I have spoken about broadly covers that.
States have claimed before the Supreme Court that police is a state subject and if the UPSC tells them who should be their DGP, it is interference in the federal structure. Niti Aayog in 2017 recommended shifting of police and public order to the concurrent list mainly to tackle increasing inter-state crime and terrorism. What’s your opinion?
I agree police is a state subject but then states have got some directions from the Supreme Court. Why don’t they follow these directions? I am also in favour of bringing police and public order under the concurrent list as there has been much change on the ground since our Constitution was drafted. States have failed even in discharge of their normal day-to-day functions, what to say of inter-state crimes.
Centre recently appointed former Madhya Pradesh DGP Rishi Kumar Shukla as the CBI director for a fixed term of two years. Why cannot the same be done in case of state DGPs?
This is exactly the Supreme Court direction about the appointment of state DGPs too. Even this was recommended by the National Police Commission. In fact, the commission had recommended a three-year tenure, but I said three years in present context would be too much and two years is enough.