HE Punjab and Haryana High Court Monday slammed the Punjab Government for its “apparent” arbitrariness in dealing with officers facing criminal cases.
The government cannot act as an absolute despot at its whims and fancies by patronizing certain officers while imparting a step-motherly treatment to others, the court said.
It also issued notice to Anurag Aggarwal, Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Home Affairs and Justice, Punjab to show cause why directions cannot be issued for filing a complaint with the judicial magistrate for the offence of perjury, given the false affidavit that had been filed with incomplete details of police officers against who the FIRs were registered.
The state government submitted that it had decided to constitute a committee to frame a policy about action to be taken in those cases where the police officers had been convicted.
The court then directed that till the state constituted committee arrived at a decision and considered the individual cases of the officers, no police officer who is charge-sheeted and/or convicted in a criminal case involving moral turpitude, shall continue to officially have public dealing.
It added such officers would not be assigned investigations, either as investigating officers or in a supervisory capacity and would not be posted in the vigilance bureau till a final decision was taken by the committee. They should also not be posted in the district where their criminal case is being tried, the court clarified.
The high court also directed the committee to examine the issue of officers against whom FIRs had been registered and trials were pending as there had to be uniformity in dealing with such cases based on their nature and gravity.
It impleaded the Union Home Ministry in the case to assist the court to look into apparent violations of Indian Police Service (Cadre) Rules, 1954 read with Indian Police Service (Fixation of Cadre Strength) Regulations, 1955.
These observations and directions came to be made by a single-judge bench of Justice Anupinder Singh Grewal on a petition filed by one Surjit Singh who had been dismissed from service by an SSP but was reinstated by the order of the Inspector General of police. Despite that, the petitioner had been dismissed again by the SSP. It was this order of dismissal which was under challenge before the high court.
Singh claimed that several police officers were facing serious charges and some of them have been convicted but were continuing in service.
From the affidavit filed by the state government, the high court found that one Rajinder Singh Sohal who had been convicted in a criminal case was posted as the SSP of Gurdaspur district. He had been convicted under Sections 342, 343, 346 and 365 read with Section 34 IPC in a CBI case in 1995 and had been sentenced to three years in prison in 2013.
“The continuation of such an officer at the post of SSP, who is the district head of the police force, would erode the confidence of the people in the police administration apart from being an affront to the rule of law. Therefore, the competent authority should consider transferring him from the post forthwith”, the court ordered.