‘Persons with criminal background can’t continue on State Police Complaints Authority’: Bombay HC
Observing that a person with criminal background cannot be allowed to continue on the State Police Complaints Authority (SPCA), the Bombay high court on Monday dismissed a petition filed by Rajkumar Dhakane, who has been removed from Maharashtra SPCA for having three criminal cases registered against him.
“In a post such as this, it is reasonable to expect — even demand — the highest standards of integrity and lawfulness,” said the division bench of justice Gautam Patel and justice Madhav Jamdar while dismissing Dhakane’s petition.
Dhakane was appointed as “an eminent member of civil society” on the Authority on July 14, 2020. In August 2020, the home department called for a report from the Director-General of Police (DGP) after newspaper reports highlighted that there were criminal cases registered against Dhakane, a Pune resident.
Eventually, he was removed from the Authority on 5 July 2021, after the DGP submitted a report that disclosed that three criminal cases were registered against him in Pune city and in one of the cases registered by Koregaon Park police station, he was booked for attempted murder.
Dhakane moved the high court on July 8, contending that he had disclosed the offences registered against him when he applied for the appointment, pursuant to an advertisement issued by the state government and the government satisfied itself about his suitability for the appointment. Besides, he argued that the post is based on tenure– for a fixed period of three years.
The argument, however, failed to impress upon the high court. “The very nature of the post makes it difficult for us to accept this argument,” said the bench. “The members of the authority are required to look into complaints about excesses by police officers above a certain rank. It seems to us wholly incongruous that member entrusted to look into alleged police excesses himself has numerous complaints against him,” it added.
“We do not see how a person can claim to be entitled to continue in a post such as this and simultaneously say that the state government must wholly ignore all criminal complaints that have been previously made against him,” said the bench. “This is nothing but saying that the complaints against the petitioner should effectively be ignored and that he should nonetheless be considered “a person of eminence”,” it observed.
The HC also rejected Dhakane’s argument that there was no provision enabling the state government to remove a member before the end of the tenure. In this regard, the court accepted the state government’s stand that the power to appoint includes the power to suspend or dismiss for a valid reason.
Headed by a retired high court judge, the authority comprises a retired police officer of the rank of inspector-general or above, a government officer retired as secretary or commissioner, a person of eminence from the civil society and serving police officer of the rank of director-general of police. It is entrusted to look into complaints against deputy superintendents of police or above.