Punjab Police (Amendment) Bill, 2023 passed by Vidhan Sabha faces two hurdles
Two major hurdles First assent from Governor then Judicial Review by Supreme Court
On June 20, 2023, the Punjab Vidhan Sabha (State Assembly) passed the Punjab Police (Amendment) Bill, 2023. This bill amends Section 6 of the Punjab Police Act, 2007, which pertains to the selection and term of office of the Director General of Police (DGP) – the head of the police force.
The amendment proposes the establishment of an Empanelment Committee to select suitable and eligible IPS (Indian Police Service) officers for the position of State DGP. The committee would be chaired by a retired Chief Justice or former Judge of the Punjab & Haryana High Court and would consist of six members, including the Punjab Chief Secretary, a nominee of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), the Chairman or nominee of the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC), the State Home Secretary, a nominee of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) of the Government of India, and a retired Punjab DGP.
According to the amendment, the state government would appoint the DGP from a panel of three officers recommended by the Empanelment Committee. It’s worth noting that the amendment doesn’t completely exclude the involvement of the UPSC, which is mandated by the Supreme Court for the selection process of the State DGP. However, the extent of the UPSC’s involvement is proposed to be changed.
The fate of the passed legislation depends on the State Governor. The Governor has four options: granting immediate assent, withholding assent, returning the bill to the Legislature for reconsideration with suggestions for amendments, or reserving the bill for the consideration of the President of India. Ultimately, it will be the President who can grant or withhold assent if the bill is reserved.
Hemant Kumar, an advocate at the Punjab & Haryana High Court, explains that although it is within the State Assembly’s jurisdiction to pass any bill, its fate depends on the State Governor. He mentions the example of the Punjab State Vigilance Commission (Repeal) Bill, 2022, which was passed by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha in September 2022 but is yet to be assented by the Governor, Banwari Lal Purohit.
If the Punjab Police (Amendment) Bill, 2023 receives the Governor’s assent, it will still need to pass the test of judicial scrutiny at the Supreme Court. The Apex Court’s ruling in the Prakash Singh vs. Union of India judgment from September 2006 has consistently emphasized the involvement of the UPSC in the selection process of the State DGP. The Supreme Court’s judicial review will be the second hurdle for this bill.
The amendment bill also includes a provision stating that in the pending appointment of a regular DGP, the State Government may give the additional charge of the position to any officer holding the rank of DGP in the state. Currently, Gaurav Yadav, a 1992 batch IPS officer of the Punjab Cadre, has been holding the additional charge of the State’s DGP since approximately a year ago.
Hemant points out that the Supreme Court, in its order on July 3, 2018, in the case of Prakash Singh vs. Union of India, directed that there should be no concept of an acting Director General of Police and that no person should be appointed on an acting basis. Therefore, even if the official nomenclature of Gaurav Yadav is not “Acting” or “Officiating” DGP, his holding of the additional charge implies acting or officiating capacity according to Hemant.