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UP govt appoints 3rd acting DGP in row despite contempt plea in SC. ‘Bad precedent’, say ex-DGPs

Lucknow: Days after a contempt petition was filed in Supreme Court against the Uttar Pradesh government for its removal of former director general of police (DGP) Mukul Goel, senior IPS officer Vijaya Kumar was Wednesday announced as the state’s third acting DGP in a row over the past one year.

The Yogi Adityanath government took the decision two months after it handed over the charge of DGP to senior IPS officer R. K. Vishwakarma, who had taken over after his predecessor D. S. Chauhan retired on 31 March. The decision put to rest speculation over whether Vishwakarma — who retired Wednesday — would get an extension of service.

Mukul Goel, who was shunted out on 12 May last year on grounds of “disregard of government duty,” “lack of interest in departmental work” and “indolence”, was the state’s last permanent DGP.

The state government, in an order issued Wednesday, said that Vijaya Kumar, who is serving as DG (CB-CID) and DG (vigilance), has been given additional charge of DGP till the appointment of a permanent UP police chief. 

The decision is being seen as an “unprecedented” move by former DGPs. 

Also Read: Former UP DGP recalls Atiq Ahmed’s ‘reign of terror’ — ‘massive minority support, political patronage’

‘Image’ matters

While Vijaya Kumar’s predecessor Vishwakarma served only for two months, the latter’s predecessor Chauhan served for ten and a half months.

Kumar has eight months of his tenure left and is set to retire on 31 January next year. 

In September last year, the UP government had sent a list of 38 IPS officers’ names to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for consideration for the post of DGP. However, the UPSC had returned the proposal and questioned the removal of Goel as DGP before he completed a minimum tenure of two years, as prescribed by the Supreme Court.

Official sources told ThePrint that the state government has not sent another list of names to the UPSC since then. They added that appointment of the DGP was a prerogative of the CM and has to be done keeping in mind different factors like the best individual available, image of the officer etc.

“The UPSC had noted that if Goel was relieved from his responsibilities as DGP not on the grounds mentioned in the SC order dated 22 September 2006, his relieving from the post amounts to violation of the direction of the SC. The UPSC had also asked the government to provide a copy of the removal order in case he was relieved on any of the grounds mentioned in that order,” a senior civil servant privy to the developments told ThePrint, requesting anonymity.

The UPSC had at the time also noted that the state government had excluded the names of some senior IPS officers who retired in January and February 2023. It had asked the UP government to revise the ambit of consideration and include the names of all eligible officers.

“The state government had excluded the names of senior IPS officers (now retired) Gopal Meena and Rajendra Pal Singh, who retired in January and February 2023 respectively. The UPSC asked the government to send the names of all the officers up to the 1992 batch of IPS state cadre,” the civil servant quoted earlier said.

On 22 September 2006, the Supreme Court had delivered a landmark judgment in the Prakash Singh case, mandating countrywide police reforms including its important directive to have a transparent, merit-based process of selection for the post of DGP.

It had also issued directions for the provision of a fixed minimum tenure of two years to officers selected for the post of the DGP, besides other guidelines.

What the contempt petition says

In a contempt petition filed in Supreme Court on 16 May, petitioner Krishna Kumar, a resident of UP’s Bulandshahr district, said that “the state of UP removed the erstwhile DGP of UP Mukul Goel before completion of tenure of two years and without fulfillment of the grounds mentioned by Supreme Court for such removal”. 

It has therefore “committed deliberate and willful defiance of the SC”, added the plea — seen by ThePrint — which is yet to come up for hearing in the apex court.

The petitioner further stated that “after removing Goel from the post in May 2022, the state government appointed D.S. Chauhan as acting DGP, which is again a blatant violation/contempt of the SC order which clearly specifies that ‘no state government can appoint acting DGP’”.  

The petition further said: “On 31 March 2023, after the retirement of DG Devendra Singh Chauhan, the state government, again in contempt of the SC, appointed DG Rajkumar Vishwakarma as acting DGP…furthermore, the state government has not yet forwarded the names of senior IPS officers to the UPSC as per rules for the appointment of DGP…”.

‘Bad precedent, demoralises force’

Anti-corruption activist and retired IPS officer Amitabh Thakur told ThePrint that the move is unprecedented, and alleged that the UP government had not appointed a permanent DGP for a “political” reason. 

“The government wants to appoint a DGP of its choice and that choice may not match with the selection of the UPSC. There is an attempt by the state government to make the DGP subservient to the ruling political party,” he claimed.

Former DGP O.P. Singh too remarked that the UP government’s decision sets a “very bad precedent”.

“The government should have, well in advance, sent a panel (of names) to the UPSC. Despite that a PIL has been filed in connection with the Punjab DGP and now also of UP. Being a vast force, this act definitely decreases the morale of the force. The DGP is like the maai-baap (mother and father) of the force. He is the man who leads from the front,” he told ThePrint.

Prakash Singh, former DGP of UP and Assam and ex-DG of the Border Security Force (BSF), on whose petition the Supreme Court has issued detailed guidelines for appointment of a DGP, told ThePrint that this problem has arisen not only in the states but also in central paramilitary forces, where the additional charge of DG (BSF) lies with DG (CRPF) Sujoy L Thaosen.  

Thaosen is serving as DG of the CRPF, the government’s largest paramilitary force, while also handling additional charge of helming the BSF, which guards India’s frontiers with Bangladesh and Pakistan, adding up to over 7,000 km.

“Forces like the BSF and CRPF, which have strengths of lakhs of officers, are mega forces which need a full-time leader and attention. This is very unfair to the officers waiting to be elevated and the forces in general. UP now has an acting DGP thrice and here too, it needs to be seen why this is happening and a serious thought needs to be given on the reasons,” said Singh.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

Also Read: 28 posts, 78 DGs & ADGs in UP — why experts are calling top-heavy IPS ‘worst-managed cadre’

Source: The Print

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