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Punjab Police (Amendment) Bill, 2023 passed by Vidhan Sabha faces two hurdles – First assent from Governor then Judicial Review by Supreme Court

Hemant Kumar

Hemant Kumar

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In Jan, 2019 Apex Court deprecated Punjab Police (Amendment) Act, 2018 which excluded UPSC’s role in selection process of State DGP.

On 20 June 2023, the Punjab Vidhan Sabha passed Punjab Police (Amendment) Bill, 2023 which amends (read substitutes) Section 6 of Punjab Police Act, 2007 pertaining to Selection and Term of office of Director General of Police (Head of Police Force)- DGP(HoPF).

police

The aforementioned amendment seeks to vest the power of empanelling eligible and suitable IPS officers for the post of State DGP (HoPF) in an Empanelment Committee to be headed by retired Chief Justice or former Judge of Punjab & Haryana High Court as Chairperson & which would comprise of six members viz. Punjab Chief Secretary, a nominee of UPSC, Chairman or nominee of PPSC, State Home Secretary, a nominee of MHA, Govt of India and a retired Punjab DGP (HoPF).

It has been provided in the ibid Bill that the State Government shall appoint the DGP (HoPF) from amongst the panel of three Officers recommended by such Empanelment Committee.

Interestingly, the latest passed Amendment Bill doesn’t completely excludes the role of UPSC, which is mandated by Supreme Court, for the State DGP (HoPF) Selection Process. Of course, UPSC’s involvement/role in such Process is proposed to be varied.

Punjab Governor Banwari Lal Purohit

Although it is the prerogative of the House of State Assembly to pass any Bill which however is within its competence or jurisdiction (read Article 246 and Seventh Schedule to Constitution of India) however its fate of such passed legislation depends upon the State Governor.

Actually, the Governor has four options.

The Governor can straightway accord assent or else withhold the same.

Further, he can even return the Bill to the Legislature for reconsideration including suggesting some sort of amendment(s) in the passed Bill therein.

Lastly, he can reserve the Bill for the consideration of the President of India in which case it is the President who can either grant or withhold his assent.

It is worth mentioning here that Punjab State Vigilance Commission -PSVC (Repeal) Bill, 2022 which was passed by Punjab Vidhan Sabha in Sep, 2022 but it is yet to be assented by the Governor, Banwari Lal Purohit.

vigilance

Now it would be interesting to watch what Punjab Governor Banwari Lal Purohit does in respect of Punjab Police (Amendment) Bill, 2023 as passed by the State Assembly.

Nevertheless, this would be the first hurdle for the ibid Bill.

Be that as it may be recalled that about five years ago in Sep, 2018, the then Capt Amarinder Singh dispensation in Punjab also got enacted Punjab Police (Amendment) Act, 2018 via State Assembly which also amended then existing Section 6 of Punjab Police Act, 2007 pertaining to Selection and Term of Office of DGP and which completely ousted the role of involvement of UPSC in Selection Process of State DGP (HoPF).

But in Jan, 2019, the Supreme Court deprecated that 2018 Amendment by terming it being against its earlier issued directions in Re: Prakash Singh Vs Union of India Judgment (Sep, 2006).

Also Read: Is Punjab Vigilance Bureau Acting Without Legal Mandate?

Although Punjab Police (Amendment) Act, 2018 hasn’t been judicially adjudicated hitherto. The Apex Court, however, then directed the Punjab Government to send names of all eligible IPS officers to UPSC which was immediately compiled thereafter.

chief minister PUNJAB POLICE
Dinkar Gupta with Capt Amarinder Singh

In early Feb, 2019, Dinkar Gupta was appointed as Punjab DGP (HoPF) by then Capt. Amarinder Govt by following Supreme Court laid down Selection Process (read with involvement of UPSC).

Hence, the latest passed Punjab Police (Amendment) Bill, 2023, even if it receives assent of the State Governor, would thereafter also have to pass the test of Judicial Scrutiny at Supreme Court and it remains to be seen if the Apex Court upholds the same by departing from its historic ruling in Prakash Singh Judgment, which it has been consistently reiterating since past several years.

It must be mentioned here that the ibid Bill also lays down that its provisions i.e. pertaining to Selection/ Appointment of State DGP (HoPF) shall prevail notwithstanding anything contained in any Judgment, Order or Decree of any Court.

However, even this sort of non-obstante mentioning is subjected to Judicial Review since it is the basic structure of the Constitution of India.

Thus Judicial Scrutiny at Supreme Court would be second hurdle of the latest Punjab Assembly passed Punjab Police (Amendment) Bill, 2023.

One more interesting and significant provision in the latest passed Bill is that it also provides that the pending appointment of regular DGP (HoPF), the State Government may give the additional charge of such post to any Officer in the rank of DGP in the State.

Interestingly, it has been almost a year now since Gaurav Yadav, a 1992 batch IPS of Punjab Cadre and primarily posted as Special DGP (Director General of Police), Administration has been holding the additional charge of State’s DGP (HoPF).

This period of one year also includes two months viz. July-Aug, 2022 when Yadav was delegated the additional charge of DG P(HoPF) since then incumbent VK Bhawra proceeded on two months leave in early July, 2022.

Also Read: No information with UPSC on state govt sending names of IPS officers for selection process of new regular DGP

Further when Bhawra resumed duty in Sep, 2022 he in lieu of being re-posted on this earlier post i.e. DGP (HoPF) was however posted as Chairman, Punjab Police Housing Corporation (PPHC) in the rank of DGP.

Gaurav Yadav

Consequently Gaurav Yadav was allowed to hold the additional charge of DGP (HoPF), which he was holding since July, 2022, till further Orders. It was also mentioned in the Order dated 2 Sep 2022 that it is being issued as per Orders of the Competent Authority.

It may be mentioned here that a three Judge bench of Supreme Court comprising then Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwlikar and Dr. Justice YV Chandrachud (current CJI) in its 3 July, 2018 Order in Re: Prakash Singh Vs Union of India which related to issue of Selection and Appointment of DGP (HoPF) of States passed a series of directions which also included that none of the States shall ever conceive of the idea of appointing any person on the post of Director General of Police (read DGP- HoPF) on acting basis for there is no concept of acting Director General of Police as per the decision in Prakash Singh’s case (Main Judgment dated 22 Sep, 2006).

Of course, the official nomenclature of Gaurav Yadav as on date in not Acting or Officiating DGP (HoPF) but nevertheless, if an IPS officer has been given additional charge of State’s DGP (HoPF), he for all intent and purposes literally means Acting or Officiating DGP (HoPF) of the State. punjab

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Hemant Kumar

Hemant Kumar

The writer is an Advocate at Punjab & Haryana High Court, Chandigarh. He has been writing on issues concerning administration, governance and law especially pertaining to the Constitution.

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