Senior IPS officer and acting Maharashtra Director General of Police Sanjay Pandey told the Bombay High Court on Tuesday that the UPSC selection committee ignored his outstanding Annual Confidential Record (ACR) and left his name out of the empanelment for the post of Maharashtra DGP.
Senior counsel Navroz Seervai, who appeared on behalf of Pandey, urged a bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice MS Karnik to make the IPS officer a party to a Public Interest Litigation seeking directions to the Maharashtra government to fill up the vacant post of state DGP in accordance with the 2006 Supreme Court judgement on police reforms in the Prakash Singh case.
The PIL, filed by lawyer Datta Mane through his counsel Abhinav Chandrachud, argued that as per the SC judgement, the top state police officer's post could not be an acting one and that an officer with the minimum tenure requirements as per the 2006 ruling must be appointed by the Maharashtra government at the earliest.
On Monday, Maharashtra Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni had told HC that Pandey, currently the senior most Indian Police Service officer in the state, was appointed as the acting DGP last year after the then DGP Subodh Jaiswal vacated the post midterm following his transfer to the CBI.
Kumbhakoni also told HC that on November 8 last year, the then state chief secretary Sitaram Kunte had written to the UPSC seeking that its selection committee reconsider Pandey's name for empanelment for the DGP's post.
The HC, however, had said Kunte was one of the three members of the UPSC selection committee that had proposed the names of three officers, Hemant Nagrale, K Venkatesham, and Rajnish Seth on November 1 last year, and that Kunte had written to the UPSC a week later, to consider Pandey's name, as an afterthought.
The HC had also said such conduct was not proper and was not based on any legal principles.
On Tuesday, Seervai appeared before the bench as an intervenor in the case and sought that Pandey be made a party to the PIL since, he had "a lot to say." "I (Pandey) have given 30 years of my life to the police service. I am a man of utmost integrity. Every single ACR (of Pandey) since November (2021) had grade eight and above, which is outstanding. However, this was ignored by two of the three selection committee members (third being Kunte)," Seervai told court.
Seervai further said Pandey was "most affected" in this matter and yet had not been made a party to the case.
"Whichever way an order is passed, the party most affected will be Sanjay Pandey. He has a lot to say to the court. No order should be passed by this court without making him a party. He is a man of utmost integrity. He will be adversely affected. The UPSC has not considered rightly his records," Seervai said.
The HC, however, said integrity and seniority were good qualities for an IPS officer to possess but the same did not "entitle" him a right to the DGP's post.
The HC bench further concurred with the Union government counsel Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh that there did not exist a legal provision under which the state government could have asked the UPSC to reconsider its decision after the selection committee had signed off on the names.
Besides, the three names were selected from a list of 21 officers from the Maharashtra government's own proposal, Singh told the court.
The HC also said it it did not behove (then CS) Kunte to not have raised a grievance or point out the error committed, if any, by the committee before signing off on the three names.
Kumbhakoni, however, told HC Kunte did point out that Pandey's name was being left out erroneously but the same was not considered.
"The chief secretary said so orally because he did not recall the (empanelment) rules. He came back to Mumbai from Delhi after the November 1 meeting, checked the empanelment rules and realised his grievance was valid. So he wrote to the UPSC as an officer of the state government," Kumbhakoni said.
The AG argued that HC must also look at the case from the point of view of the incumbent officer (Pandey), who, after having served almost all his tenure, shouldn't have been left out due to incorrect interpretation of the rules.
The HC bench, however, said Kumbhakoni's arguments only ended up showing Kunte in a poor light.
"Mr. AG, the more you argue, the poorer you make the Chief Secretary (Kunte) look. If he didn't remember the rules, he should have asked the other members to keep the decision in abeyance, checked the rule book," the HC said.
"Is this what is expected of the CS? Why didn't he raise a grievance then and there? And if he did and his grievance was not being recorded, then why did he sign it," the HC asked.
Chandrachud argued the state could not have asked for a reconsideration since the spirit of the Prakash Singh judgement was to keep police postings free of political interference.
The HC closed all arguments on the PIL and reserved its order, but permitted the parties, including Seervai, to submit written arguments, if they wished to, by Thursday.