WP 310 of 1996
The enactment of the Indian Police Act in 1861 resulted in some far-reaching changes to the law enforcement system of this country. This combined with the absence of any type of comprehensive review at the national level of the police system after independence led to the appointment of the National Police Commission (NPC) on 15th November 1977 by the Government of India. The commission was appointed for a fresh examination of the role and performance of the police, both as a law enforcement agency and as an institution to protect the rights of the citizens guaranteed by the Constitution. Despite several decades having passed since the NPC gave detailed reports of recommendations, these reforms had not been implemented. They met the same dead-end fate as the recommendations of many other Commissions.
The petitioners in this case, Mr. Prakash Singh, Mr. NK Singh and Common Cause decided to raise the issue of police reforms in the Supreme Court. The petition prayed for the Supreme Court to issue directions to the Government of India to frame a new Police Act along the lines of the Model Police Act.
In its landmark judgement of September 22, 2006, the court observed that no action found necessary to remedy the situation that was within the constitutional scheme was too stringent for these circumstances. The court could only express its hope that all State Governments would rise to the occasion and enact a new Police Act wholly insulating the police from any external pressure. This would be an important measure taken to secure the rights of the citizens under the Constitution for the Rule of Law and guarantee that everyone is treated equally and without prejudice or partiality.
The court laid down certain guidelines in its judgment. These were to be operative till the new legislation was enacted by the State Governments. The seven directives are the following:
- State Security Commission (SSC): Meant to ensure that the government of each state does not influence or pressure the state police, as well as to maintain policies that ensure compliance of the state police with the law of the land and the Constitution.
- Selection and Minimum Tenure of Director General of Police (DGP): The DGP to be selected by the state government on merit from amongst the panel of three senior-most officers of the Department. The DGP should have a minimum tenure of at least two years irrespective of his date of superannuation.
- Minimum Tenure of I.G. of Police & Other Officers: Police officers on operational duties like Inspector General of Police (IG), Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Superintendent of Police (SP) and Station House Officer (SHO) shall have a prescribed minimum tenure of two years unless they face disciplinary proceedings, are convicted in criminal or corruption cases, or are otherwise unable to perform their duties.
- Separation of Investigation: The investigative functions of the police should be separated from those related to law and order to ensure speed, efficiency, and good relations during investigations.
- Police Establishment Board (PEB): To be constituted in each state to decide all transfers, postings, promotions and other service-related matters of officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP).
- Police Complaints Authority (PCA): To be constituted at the district level to look into complaints against police officers of and up to the rank of DSP. Similarly, there should be another Police Complaints Authority at the state level to look into complaints against officers of the rank of SP and above.
- National Security Commission (NSC): To be constituted by the central government at the Union level to prepare a panel that will select and place chiefs of the Central Police Organisation (CPO) who will also have a minimum tenure of two years. The commission would also review from time to time the effectiveness of these forces, improve the service conditions of its personnel, ensure that there is proper coordination between the different factions, certify that the forces are generally utilised to fulfill the purposes for which they were raised and make recommendations based on these reviews.
The court gave time till 31.12.2006 for these directives to be carried out by the states. However, several states along with the Union filed an impleadment application in the case praying for modification of direction nos. 1, 4 and 6 of the order. Simultaneously, Mr. Prakash Singh and several others filed contempt petitions in the matter owing to the failure of the states to implement the court directives. The Supreme Court set up another commission headed by Justice KT Thomas to look into the matter. The Thomas Committee submitted its report in 2010 on the matter of non-implementation of the judgement in several states. After perusal of the Thomas committee report, the court gave further directions to the states of West Bengal, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh to comply with the directives. Mr. Harish Salve was appointed as amicus curiae in the case on January 24, 2011.
By its order dated August 3, 2018, the Supreme Court reiterated its 2006 judgement by directing the states to select the DGP from a list of officers empaneled by the UPSC. It gave the following directives:
(a) All the States shall send their proposals in anticipation of the vacancies to the UPSC, well in time at least three months prior to the date of retirement of the incumbent on the post of DGP;
(b) The UPSC shall prepare the panel as per the directions of this Court in the judgment in Prakash Singh’s case(supra) and intimate to the States;
(c) The State shall immediately appoint one of the persons from the panel prepared by the UPSC
(d) None of the States shall ever conceive of the idea of appointing any person on the post of DGP on acting basis for there is no concept of acting Director General of Police as per the decision in Prakash Singh’s case(supra);
(e) An endeavour has to be made by all concerned to see that the person who was selected and appointed as the DGP continues despite his date of superannuation. However, the extended term beyond the date of superannuation should be a reasonable period. We say so as it has been brought to our notice that some of the States have adopted a practice to appoint the DGP on the last date of retirement as a consequence of which the person continues for two years after his date of superannuation. Such a practice will not be in conformity with the spirit of the direction.
(f) Our direction No.(c) should be considered by the UPSC to mean that the persons are to be empanelled, as far as practicable, from amongst the people within the zone of consideration who have got clear two years of service. Merit and seniority should be given due weightage.
(g) Any legislation/rule framed by any of the States or the Central Government running counter to the direction shall remain in abeyance to the aforesaid extent.