In a surprise action, the Bhupesh Baghel-led government in Chhattisgarh removed the Director General of Police (DGP) D.M. Awasthi and appointed the 1989 batch IPS officer Ashok Juneja in his place. This action has generated controversy as it has been done ignoring the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court.
Awasthi, a 1986 batch IPS cadre, was appointed as the DGP on 20 December 2018, just days after the Congress formed the government in the state after defeating the Raman Singh-led BJP government in the 2018 elections. Awasthi is scheduled to retire in April 2023.
Juneja was appointed as the new DGP while superseding five IPS officers senior to him in Chhattisgarh. He is considered as someone who was also close to former Congress Chief Minister Ajit Jogi, Baghel’s bete-noire. While responding to media queries, Baghel later termed Awasthi’s removal as a “routine” transfer rather than a “punishment”.
Removal of Awasthi, however, has generated controversy as it was done ignoring the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in the 2006 Prakash Singh case which fixed rules for appointment and removal of DGPs in states to ensure that the policing system in the states stays out of political interference. In its 2006 order, among other directions, the Supreme Court said, “The Director General of Police of the state shall be selected by the state government from amongst the three senior most officers of the Department who have been empanelled for promotion to that rank by the Union Public Service Commission on the basis of their length of service, very good record and range of experience for heading the police force. And, once he has been selected for the job, he should have a minimum tenure of at least two years irrespective of his date of superannuation.”
The SC had further stated that the “DGP can be relieved of his responsibilities by the state government acting in consultation with the State Security Commission consequent upon any action taken against him under the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules or following his conviction in a court of law in a criminal offence or in a case of corruption, or if he is otherwise incapacitated from discharging his duties.”
In July 2018, a Supreme Court division bench of then Chief Justice Dipak Mishra, Justice Khanwilkar and Justice Chandrachud, had modified the 2006 judgment, passing additional directions to the order passed in the case in 2006. To ensure greater compliance of the spirit of the law, the Supreme Court passed the following directions: (a) All the States shall send their proposals in anticipation of the vacancies to the Union Public Service Commission, well in time at least three months prior to the date of retirement of the incumbent on the post of Director General of Police; (b) The Union Public Service Commission shall prepare the panel as per the directions of this Court in the judgment in Prakash Singh’s case and intimate to the states; (c) The state shall immediately appoint one of the persons from the panel prepared by the Union Public Service Commission; (d) None of the states shall ever conceive of the idea of appointing any person on the post of Director General of Police on acting basis for there is no concept of acting Director General of Police as per the decision in Prakash Singh’s case (supra); (e) An endeavour has to be made by all concerned to see that the person who was selected and appointed as the Director General of Police continues despite his date of superannuation. However, the extended term beyond the date of superannuation should be a reasonable period. We say so as it has been brought to our notice that some of the states have adopted a practice to appoint the Director General of Police on the last date of retirement as a consequence of which the person continues for two years after his date of superannuation. Such a practice will not be in conformity with the spirit of the direction; (f) Our direction No (c) should be considered by the Union Public Service Commission to mean that the persons are to be empanelled, as far as practicable, from amongst the people within the zone of consideration who have got clear two years of service. Merit and seniority should be given due weightage; (g) Any legislation/rule framed by any of the States or the Central Government running counter to the direction shall remain in abeyance to the aforesaid extent.
However, the Baghel government, while removing the April 1963 born Awasthi and transferring him as Director General of the State Police Academy, Raipur, considered a “loop line” posting, on the face of it, seems to have violated a majority of the directions of the Supreme Court, including not sending the selected names to the UPSC. Awasthi did not meet any ground for the sudden removal, given by the Supreme Court in its 2006 and 2018 order, that includes the incumbent DGP taking any action that invites the applicability of All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules or conviction in a court of law in a criminal offence or in a case of corruption or becoming incapacitated from discharging duties.”
Well-known Bhopal-based transparency and RTI activist Ajay Dubey said that the transfer was done in open violation of the directions given by the SC.
“It is an action done in open violation of the Supreme Court’s directions regarding DGP appointment. As per direction, a preliminary inquiry is mandatory before removal, but nothing of this sort was done in this case,” Dubey told The Sunday Guardian.