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'Don't meddle with the police'

Sheela Bhatt in Mumbai | February 05, 2009 17:35 IST

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The Bombay high court judgment striking down senior Indian Police Service officer Anami N Roy's appointment as Maharashtra's Director General of Police is a direct indictment of politicians's manipulation of the police force, a senior Maharashtra police officer said on Thursday.

The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, alleged that Roy had become uncomfortably close to senior Nationalist Congress Party politicians in recent years. Senior NCP leaders, he alleged, directed then state Home Minister R R Patil to make Roy the DGP, disregarding three senior officers.

The high court passed strictures against Patil while terming his decision as illegal.

S S Virk, who won accolades while serving in Punjab on deputation, is the senior-most officer in the Maharashtra police. An IPS officer of the 1970 batch, Virk is back in his parent Maharashtra cadre and is the claimant to the top post.

Next in seniority is another IPS officer, Suprakash Chakravarti, currently, the Director General, Anti-Corruption Bureau, who filed an application before the Central Administrative Tribunal, challenging Roy's appointment on the ground that the latter had superseded three officers to the post. Roy challenged the CAT decision in the high court.

Speaking exclusively to immediately after the high court verdict, Chakravarti said, "The message of the high court is that don't meddle politically with a disciplined force like the police. It's not good for the police force and it's damaging for the country."

J D Virkar of the 1972 batch, who served in the Research and Analysis Wing for long, has returned to Maharashtra as well. He too is eligible for consideration for the top post.

The court has asked the state government to appoint a new DGP in four weeks.

Interestingly, the Maharashtra government has been caught in its own web because its reply to the CAT on why Roy was appointed, ignoring the claims of three senior officers, argued that it had dutifully followed the recommendation made by the Supreme Court regarding the police reforms in its landmark judgment in the Prakash Singh versus Union of India case of 2006.

In that judgment, the apex court said the DGP of a state shall be selected by the state government from amongst the three senior-most officers who have been empanelled for promotion to that rank by the Union Public Service Commission on the basis of their length of the service, good record and range of experience for heading the police force. Once selected for the job, the officer should have a minimum tenure of at least two years irrespective of the date of superannuation.

The DGP may, however, be relieved of responsibility by the state government acting in consultation with the State Security Commission consequent upon any action taken against her/him under the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules following a conviction in the court of law in a criminal offence and in a case of corruption or if s/he is otherwise incapacitated from discharging his duties, the judgment added.

This Supreme Court directive clearly ensured that there was no scope for an arbitrary decision in the appointment of the highest-ranking police officer. The government had to choose from top three senior officers. But the Maharashtra government selected Roy, ignoring the claims of three senior officers with a fine record of service.

Chakravarti told, "They (politicians in Maharashtra) wanted him (Roy) at any cost. It is not a million, but a billion dollar question: Why? But God is great! The judiciary has vindicated my stand."

When asked that in this time of liberalisation -- when merit supercedes seniority as it has happened in the civil services and foreign service -- why should the police force not be flexible on such issues, Chakravarti said, "I understand the question of merit, but we three officers have been promoted to the rank of DGP. You don't reach that level without merit. I am at the level where I have seen it all, done it all. More important, the police force is different from many other civilian forces. We have a clear chain of command. If I ask an officer to go and fight Naxals, he can't tell me that my decision is not intelligent. Whatever be the merit, a major in the army can't be made a general."

"Many people who justify such appointments don't know that law and order doesn't come with knowledge of computers and laptops," Chakravarti said. "It's the discipline and command structure that makes the force cohesive. Some things in governance are time-tested and I see no need to change it."

Chakravarti, who was happy to win the historic case for the police force, added: "You can catch people without merit at every step when they are promoted. There is screening and it is effective. When you break the rules to make someone a DGP, you are sending a message to the junior-most officer. Remember, the DGP is like a father figure in the entire police force of the state. A policeman expects him to be just and fair. To fight crime in society you don't need keyboards, you need foot soldiers who will go in the field and take on the challenge."

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