The home department of the Government of Maharashtra has done it again. Year after year, the political executive wants to nibble at the command and control structure of the director general of police (DGP) first by taking over the transfer of officers and now arrogating the powers to promote the subordinate ranks, thereby rendering the office of the DGP irrelevant.
The fact that this meddling with the force for short-term political gains will be weakening the very edifice of law and order in the state does not seem to be bothering the political establishment.
One of the most important directives issued by the Supreme Court in its 2006 judgement on police reforms was functional autonomy of the force through security of tenure and streamlining of appointment and transfers.
As regards the establishment board, the Supreme Court directive is that the board shall decide transfers, promotions of officers of and below the rank of deputy superintendent of police and make similar recommendations in respect of superintendents of police and above.
Now the government wants to promote sub-inspectors, APIs and so on thereby making this board redundant.
The much talked about Maharashtra Government Servants’ Regulation of Transfers and Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Duties Act, 2005 (Transfer Act), is an absurdity. The Group A officers mentioned in Section 6 (b) of the Act are transferable by the minister in-charge of the department and if these officers are working at the divisional or district level, the respective heads can transfer them. But what if the officer has to be transferred out of a division or district? It is only the minister in-charge who can do it as per this Act.
The government has used the tool of promotion to ensure that no officer posted to Mumbai city as commissioner will get a full tenure.
In 2004, the decision of the government to transfer then commissioner of police prematurely because he was promoted to the rank of DG was a subject matter of PIL before the Bombay high court and the government wriggled out of it by claiming that in future too the commissioners would be of the rank of Additional DG.
The absurdity of this argument can be seen when you go back and see that there were indeed police commissioners who were promoted to the rank of DG and continued to serve in the same post. In fact, one of the commissioners was posted when he was already a DG ranking officer and he completed his full tenure.
The police force is subject to separate set of rules related to recruitment, training, discipline, hierarchy and chain of control and command. Therefore, it is not in their best interests if the government brackets the force along with other departments.
The simple solution is to clearly identify and define the respective authority for the purpose of transfers, promotions, appointments of police officers at various levels and incorporate these provisions in the Bombay Police Act. But is the government serious about police reforms?
K Subramanyam is former director general of police, Maharashtra