Context: The Bombay High Court allowed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct a preliminary enquiry into the allegations of malpractices by Maharashtra Home Minister levelled by former Commissioner of Mumbai Police.
- A PIL was filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India seeking an " immediate, unbiased, fair investigation on the various corrupt malpractices of the home minister.
- It also prayed that transfer of police officer are neither done on any consideration of pecuniary benefits to any politicians nor in contravention of the guidelines issued in Prakash Singh & others.
- The CJI has stated that it is an extraordinary case where the Petitioner has accused HM and thinks the state police is biased. And this is the reason he didn’t file an FIR.
- The developments in Maharashtra in Commissioner Param Bir Singh’s case expose the unholy nexus between politicians, bureaucrats, police and criminals.
- Our systems, whether of the police or judiciary, are army-like, dedicated to command structures. They are lacking morality or integrity and wedded to undying obedience.
- It raises questions on the protection of the whistleblower.
Directions of the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh vs Union of India
In Prakash Singh v. Union of India, the SC relied on the eight reports of the National Police Commission (1979-1981) appointed by the Union.
- Constitute a State Security Commission in every state that will lay down policy for police functioning, evaluate police performance, and ensure that state governments do not exercise unwarranted influence on the police.
- Constitute a Police Establishment Board in every state that will decide postings, transfers and promotions for officers below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, and make recommendations to the state government for officers of higher ranks.
- Constitute Police Complaints Authorities at the state and district levels to inquire into allegations of serious misconduct and abuse of power by police personnel.
- The commission recommended that there should be a PCA at the state level, headed by a retired judge of the SC or high court chosen out of a panel of names proposed by the chief justice of the state.
- A similar structure was envisaged for the PCA at the district level.
- In addition, the PCAs would be assisted by members selected by the state from panels prepared by the State Human Rights Commission, Lokayuktas and the State Public Service Commissions.
- The state PCA would look into murder, rape and other serious misconduct committed by the police while the district PCA would look into extortion, and incidents involving serious abuse of authority.
- The recommendations of the PCA would be binding on the state.
- Provide a minimum tenure of at least two years for the DGP and other key police officers (e.g., officers in charge of a police station and district) within the state forces, and the Chiefs of the central forces to protect them against arbitrary transfers and postings.
- Ensure that the DGP of state police is appointed from amongst three senior-most officers who have been empanelled for the promotion by the Union Public Service Commission on the basis of length of service, good record and experience.
- Separate the investigating police from the law and order police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people.
- Constitute a National Security Commission to shortlist the candidates for appointment as Chiefs of the central armed police forces.
Poor implementation of recommendations
- The provision regarding the selection of and minimum tenure for the DGP post has had partial effect. Corruption, politicking, and patronage-seeking at the top is so endemic that this provision has lost its sting.
- The State Security Commission consisting of the Home Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chief Secretary, the DGP and five independent members is ineffective.
- The Commission’s recommendation that there ought to be a separation between the investigation and prosecution wings, as is the system in many developed countries, required immediate enforcement by the judiciary.
- It would require that police department be placed not under the Home Minister, the source of the corruption in the first place, but under the Ministry of Law and Justice. This was never done.
- PCA: Affidavits filed in the SC showed that not a single state or UT has implemented the PCA provision.
- Though most states have notified the PCA, thus making formal compliance, the appointments have not been made of retired judges chosen out of a panel as aforesaid.
- This most important provision ensuring independence, has been made a mockery of by not constituting panels and by appointing officials as chairpersons in the place of retired judges.
- In many states, the name Police Complaints Authority has been changed, diverting attention away from the fact that the commission is for entertaining complaints against police persons.
- The center notified a Public Grievance Commission as PCA and said that since there were bodies such as the National Human Rights Commission situated at Delhi it was not necessary to have a PCA.
- Thus, on police reform, the recommendations exist, the SC order has been made but the Union remains defiant.
There is a petition pending in the SC since 2013 asking for the implementation of the Prakash Singh directives. Perhaps, now, after the Maharashtra fiasco, the SC may decide that this case pending for eight years merits listing.