‘Bring po­lice and pub­lic or­der un­der con­cur­rent list … there’s much change since Con­sti­tu­tion was drafted’

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - AN EPIPHANY OF IDEAS -

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.

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