CAT quashes Punjab DGP’s appointment: State moves HC seeking stay on order, hearing today

Sofi Ahsan
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The CAT on Friday had quashed senior police officer Dinkar Gupta’s appointment as head of the police force.

THE Amarinder Singh government on Monday approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court asking the court to set aside the Central Administrative Tribunal’s (CAT) decision quashing senior police officer Dinkar Gupta’s appointment as the state DGP. Citing an immediate stay on the judgment, the government on Monday, while mentioning for urgent listing of the case, said it does not have a DGP right now.

A separate petition was also filed by Gupta against the CAT decision, who along with the government sought an urgent hearing on Tuesday. Punjab’s petition also states that it is prevented for appointing any other person as an acting DGP in view of the Supreme Court ruling of 2018. The cases will be heard on Tuesday by a division bench.

The CAT on Friday had quashed Gupta’s appointment as head of the police force in the cases filed by DGP-rank officers Mohammad Mustafa and Siddharth Chattopadhyaya while ruling that the procedure adopted by the UPSC and its committee for empanelment of officers for final selection as DGP is in violation of the Supreme Court judgment in Prakash Singh’s case. It had also directed the UPSC to prepare a panel of three senior-most officers afresh within four weeks.

“The consequence of the impugned judgment is that presently, the State of Punjab is without a head of police force. Such a scenario is imminently dangerous to the security situation of the State of Punjab,” reads the petition filed through Advocate Generals office, adding being left without a police chief for even a short period of time is “destablising” for the police force which in turn “threatens the peace and security of the state”.

Citing security situation of the state while seeking stay, the government has also said Punjab is a sensitive border state sharing 553 km of International Border with Pakistan and it has fought “terrorism” in 1980s and 1990s. It adds the state “...is dealing with resurgence of separatism, both online in form of the Referendum 2020 campaign, as well as the relentless efforts of elements sitting across the border to smuggle arms, explosives and narcotics in the state.

Recently, instances of drones being used for transporting consignments have come to notice”. Submitting that Gupta has been on the post of DGP for almost a year, Punjab has also said that Tribunal has not given any finding regarding any inability or unfitness of Gupta to continue on such post.

Among the grounds challenging the CAT decision, Punjab has said the judgment is contrary to the orders of Supreme Court and also the Tribunal has found fault with the guidelines followed by the Empanelment Committee despite the same having met with the “approval” of Supreme Court.

Punjab also said Tribunal has substituted its own opinion on the merits of the selection of DGP and has sat in appeal over the decision of Empanelment Committee, adding, “whereas, it is well settled law that the Tribunal has no jurisdiction to sit in appeal over the merits of decision making by the a Selection Committee”.

Gupta in his petition filed through advocate Vibhav Jain has submitted that any selection committee can devise its own method and procedure for an objective assessment. It has also been argued that CAT has “gravely erred” by directing the UPSC to not even interpret or evolve specific and objective criteria relating to the parameters laid down in Prakash Singh’s case. Gupta has also questioned the observation that the selection procedure was evolved to choose the selection criteria in such a manner that the desired candidate is selected.