HC stays CAT order, Dinkar Gupta to stay on as Punjab DGP

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 PUNJAB and Haryana High Court Tuesday stayed the Central Administrative Tribunal’s decision by which Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta’s appointment was set aside last week. Punjab government and Gupta had on Monday moved the High Court against the CAT order and sought an immediate stay on the verdict.

But while staying the operation of CAT verdict, the High Court asked the Punjab Chief Secretary to explain the criteria followed for fixing the number of officers sent for consideration to the UPSC and also the material sent to the Commission for assessment of the officers regarding their ‘range of experience’.

Explained: What left Punjab Police without a DGP

Senior Advocate Nidesh Gupta and Punjab Advocate General Atul Nanda Tuesday argued that the Tribunal has misread the judgment of Supreme Court in Prakash Singh’s case, which lays down the procedure for appointing a DGP. The state also submitted that UPSC’s 2009 draft guidelines — said to have been used by the USPC empanelment committee in preparing the panel for DGP selection — have been applied for 21 states across India since 2010 in empanelment of officers for the DGP selection, adding that the guidelines had found approval before Supreme Court too. CAT, however, had said that the guidelines have no legality.

The government also submitted that Punjab is a sensitive border state and keeping in view “the existing ground situation as per intelligence report”, it would not be in public interest to be without a DGP heading the police force. The CAT judgment rendered the police force headless while ruling on Friday last week 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 the Prakash Singh case.

A DGP is selected from among three senior most officers finalised by an empanelment committee of the UPSC. The officers are selected by the Committee from the names sent by the state government in anticipation of the vacancy of DGP post.

The UPSC has also been directed by the court to file an affidavit indicating the consideration of relative assessment of the panel officers on the criteria of ‘range of experience’. CAT had questioned the Committee’s alleged decision of arbitrarily prioritising experience of five core policing areas, while selecting the panel, out of 20 policing areas mentioned in the annual performance report performa of IPS officers. The matter will now be heard on February 26 and the stay will continue in the meantime.

The order asking Punjab to explain the criteria followed for fixing the number of eligible officers (whose names were sent for consideration to the UPSC Committee) and the material sent to the UPSC for assessment of the officers was passed by the court after the counsel representing DGP-rank officers Mohd. Mustafa and Sidharth Chattopadhyaya argued that there was no material on record before the Committee for assessing the officers on the range of experience.

It was also submitted that minutes of meeting of the Empanelment Committee do not show any objective consideration of any material towards the ‘range of experience’ as the minutes reveal that only the Supreme Court directions were followed and not the draft guidelines. The court was told that the minutes do not make a mention of following of the guidelines regarding assessment on the aspect of ‘range of experience’ in core policing areas — intelligence, law & order, administration, investigation and security. It was also stressed by the opposing counsel that the number of officers sent by the state in the consideration zone to the UPSC was in violation of the DoPT instructions which say for one post only five are to be taken into consideration.

A list of 12 officers, who were either DGP or Additional DGP with at least 30 years of service was sent to the UPSC last year by Punjab. While it had sought a panel of six officers saying that it has two cadre posts of DGP, the UPSC Committee in return had sent only a panel of three officers. DGP Mustafa and DGP Chattopadhyaya, who had challenged Gupta’s appointment before CAT, figured at serial numbers 2 and 5, respectively, with Dinkar Gupta at number 6 in the list sent by the government. Three names - of Gupta, M K Tiwari (serial number 8) and V K Bhawra (serial number 9) were sent to the state government for final selection.

Punjab in its petition before High Court has explained that its position did not take into account that there is only one sanctioned post of DGP (Head of Police Force) in the level 17 of the pay matrix while other DGPs are one level below in the pay matrix. However, it has added that Supreme Court has not put any restriction on number of officers to be sent as part of the zone of consideration by the State. CAT had also raised questions over sending 12 names.