Punjab Police Rules have not kept pace with times, should be updated: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Punjab and Haryana governments to take steps to amend the 1934 Punjab Police Rules in view of changes in the organisation of the police force [Aish Mohammed vs State of Haryana and ors].

A bench of Justices Vikram Nath and Ahsanuddin Amanullah observed that ‘incongruities’ have crept into the Rules due to passage of time, both legally and in facts.

The top court noted that the Rules referred to the authority of the Inspector General (IG) as the highest, which was the case at the time of its enactment during colonial rule. However, today the said position is held by the Director General of Police (DGP).

“In fact, today the Inspector-General of Police is administratively subordinate to the Director General of Police and the Additional Director General of Police. The Rules were also framed at a time when the system of Ranges and Commissionerates had not been established. Indubitably, the Rules, for better or for worse (worse, we hazard) have not kept pace with the times. We do not appreciate why the authorities concerned are unable to update/amend the Rules with at least the correct official description of posts to obviate confusion,” the Court said.

The bench directed that the judgment be communicated to the the Chief Secretaries, Home Secretaries and DGPs of the two States for necessary action.

The observations came while upholding a 2011 Punjab & Haryana High Court order that had given the green signal to a constable’s dismissal from service.

In an earlier round of litigation before a district court, the petitioner had been unsuccessful in removing adverse remarks against him in his annual confidential reports.

The Inspector General of Police (IGP) of the Gurgaon Range, however, in 2005 expunged all the remarks in question. This was in review of and contrary to the decision of his predecessor.

In 2006, a show-cause notice was served on the constable by the Haryana DGP, which stated that undue benefit had been given to him, and an order of compulsory retirement was in order rather than further promotions.

Subsequently, the Nuh and Pawal Superintendants of Police told him that his services were no longer required as he had reached the age of 55, and he stood retired from December 2008.

A single-judge of the High Court quashed the retiral order but a division bench restored the same leading to the present appeal.

The Supreme Court at the outset stated that only a superior could have ‘reviewed’ the IGP’s first order against the appellant.

“Clearly, the ‘review’ contemplated in Rule 16.28 empowers a superior authority to ‘call for the records of awards made by their subordinates and confirm, enhance, modify or annul the same, or make further investigation or direct such to be made before passing orders.’ As such, the ‘review’ is by a superior authority and not the same authority,” the Court said.

The relevant rule outlining the review powers was also a misnomer, the bench opined.

“To a judicially or legally trained mind, it is obvious that ‘review’ carries a specific connotation, but the same is not the case herein. Put simply, review is a re-look at an order passed by the same authority which passed the original order, be it a Court or an executive officer. The heading to the rule above is a misnomer inasmuch as no power of ‘review’ is created or conferred,” the Court said.

Therefore, any power of review by the IGP in the instant case was ‘wholly arbitrary’, the bench added.

The apex court pointed out that the appellant may have had some justification in approaching the Haryana DGP but not the IGP again.

“As such, the Director General of Police had rightly show-caused the appellant and taken subsequent action thereupon. Considering the chain of events, the consequential action, in our considered view, cannot be said to be arbitrary or shocking the conscience of the Court, so as to warrant interference. For a person in uniformed service, like the police, adverse entry relating to his/her integrity and conduct is to be adjudged by the superior authority(ies) who record and approve such entry.”

The appeal was, thus, not entertained.

Advocate Vinod Kumar Tewari appeared for the appellant before the top court.

Additional Advocate General Nikhil Goel with advocates Samar Vijay Singh and Amrita Verma represented the respondents.

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