The Supreme Court on Thursday made it clear that newly-appointed acting Director General of Police of Jammu and Kashmir Dilbag Singh will continue in office till the UPSC scrutinises and provides a panel of three police officers for regular appointment of the police chief.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra granted the interim relief to the state government, saying acting DGP Singh, who replaced S P Vaid, shall continue to operate.
The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, asked the state government to provide within five days the requisite documents to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) about senior police officers.
The UPSC, in turn, would examine various aspects, including merit and seniority of these officers, and short-list within four weeks three names. The state government may then appoint an officer from the list as a regular DGP, it said.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for former DGP Prakash Singh on whose PIL the judgement on police reforms had come in 2006, alleged that the appointment of the acting DGP was in J and K was in violation of the judgement on various counts, including that Singh was the seventh in the seniority list.
“They have removed a DGP without following the procedure devised by the Supreme Court” and the government should have appointed the senior-most person as acting DGP, he said, adding that his plea seeking contempt against the state government be listed for hearing.
Attorney General K K Venugopal and lawyer Shoeb Alam, representing the state government, opposed Bhushan’s submission and said the law and order and the ground situation of Jammu and Kashmir was different from the rest of the country.
Venugopal said the person shifted out from the DGP post had “no problem” and no other police officer has aired any grievance, but Bhushan who has filed the PIL has a problem. “The ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir is not normal,” he said.
“We should not forget that this is Jammu and Kashmir. The law and order and security situation in unique and no other state has similar security requirements,” Alam also said.
The state government had on September 6 appointed Dilbagh Singh as the acting police chief, replacing S P Vaid who was posted as the transport commissioner.
Earlier, the state government had moved the court seeking modification its order that made it mandatory for all states to send a list of three senior-most IPS officers to the UPSC for clearance before appointing the DGP.
The apex court had earlier passed a slew of directions on police reforms in the country and restrained all states and union territories from appointing any police officer as acting DGPs to avoid favouritism and nepotism.
It had said that all states were required to send their proposals in anticipation of the vacancies to the UPSC well in time, at least three months before the date of retirement of the incumbent on the post of DGP.
The J and K government, in its plea, has said: “It may be pointed out that in view of the complex security concerns of the state, the peculiar ground situation prevailing therein, the upcoming panchayat and local body elections, insurgent and terror related activities, the unique law and order requirements, it is essential to have a head of the police force in the State of Jammu and Kashmir at all times.
“As such, as a purely ad-interim measure, the State Government has been constrained to appoint the Director General, Prisons of State of Jammu and Kashmir, Dilbagh Singh... as the In-Charge Director General of Police ‘till a regular arrangement is made,’” it said.
The state government also said that the apex court guidelines, which envisages the role of the UPSC prior to the appointment of a DGP in a state, could not be followed as the “present case is not that of an ‘anticipated vacancy’ which would have enabled the state to forward a panel to the UPSC and comply with the other rigors of the applicable procedure.”
It said that in view of the guidelines, the state government has now already approached the UPSC and forwarded a panel of senior-most officers from the state.
The apex court, while deciding the PIL filed by two former DGPs Prakash Singh and N K Singh in 2006, had issued several directions, including that state police chiefs will have a fixed tenure of two years.
It had said the appointment of DGPs and police officers should be merit-based and transparent and officers like DGPs and Superintendents of Police should have a minimum fixed tenure of two years.