The Bombay high court on Tuesday censured Maharashtra government for failing to make the State Police Complaints Authority, an independent body to look into complaints against police personnel, functional.
“For the past two years you are telling only one reason or the other,” said the division bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice Anuja Prabhudessai. “There is no staff, no rules of business and no complaints are still being received,” the bench added expressing its anguish over the inordinate delay in setting up the authorities.
“Your officers appear very casual and callous about it,” the judges told assistant public prosecutor Mankunwar Deshmukh. “We are very sorry to say, but your officers have taken this (more than a decade old Supreme Court directives) very lightly,” they added.
Insisting that the state authority be made functional at the earliest, the bench asked the joint secretary of the home department to remain present in court on April 13, when the matter is posted for further hearing.
More than a decade after the Supreme Court ordered all states to set up independent bodies to look into complaints against police personnel, a first-ever state-level authority was constituted in Maharashtra but it is still not functional.
The government appointed the state-level authority under the chairmanship of Justice AV Potdar, a retired high court judge. It also includes retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officers RR Sonsukare and PK Jain and retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Ramrao and Umakant Mitkar as members. The additional director general of police (establishment) acts as member-secretary of the authority. Mitkar has been included as a person of eminence from civil society only after the high court insisted that the authority must have a representative from the civil society.
The state government has earmarked 5,980-sq-ft at MTNL Building in South Mumbai for the authority, which will function as a full-time body and have 25 staff members.
As far as regional authorities are concerned, the government earlier told the court that spaces have been identified for offices of the regional police complaints authorities at Nasik, Nagpur and Aurangabad and proposals to appoint chairpersons and members of the regional authorities have been submitted to the government.
As informed to the high court earlier, divisional revenue commissioners had been told to identify office space quickly for three more divisional authorities, at Navi Mumbai (for Konkan region), Amravati (Vidarbha) and Pune (Western Maharashtra).
The court was hearing a petition filed by Limbadri Vithal Bommer complaining that though he had lodged a complaint with a deputy commissioner of police against some police personnel attached to Wadala TT police station, no action was taken. He has also asked the court to direct the state government to set up independent police complaints authorities as ordered by the Supreme Court in September 2006.