Despite statutory powers to take “independent” decisions on transfers, postings and promotions of police personnel, the Police Establishment Board was found to be acting only on receipt of “indications” from the State government.

This aspect was admitted by none other than Additional Director-General of Police (Administration), the convener of the board, before the Karnataka High Court recently in a case of illegal transfer of four senior IPS officers effected by the government in the absence of the board’s mandatory recommendation as per the amendments made in 2012 to the Karnataka Police (KP) Act.

A Division Bench, comprising Justice N. Kumar and Justice B. Manohar, in its order, did not appreciate this manner of functioning of the board and made it clear that the “board should not wait for any such indication” from the government.

The ADGP (Administration) had told the court the board had not acted with respect to transfer of these four officers as they did not get any “indication” from the government in this regard as the “practice is, the moment the government gives an indication, the board was convened and discharged its function…”

‘Public duty’

However, the court said: “The functions to be performed by the board are statutorily provided. It is a public duty. To activate them [board], no indication from the government is required nor is it contemplated.If on that ground [of no indication from the government], they [board] are not performing their statutory duty, it amounts to abdicating their solemn duty.” The court said the way in which the government bypassed the board proves that “the government is not prepared to give up its privilege of effecting transfers of its [police] officers as they have been doing for more than a century”.

What is allowed

The court also clarified that the government can modify the recommendations of the board in respect of transfers, postings and promotions of officers of the rank above additional superintendent of police, and that too in exceptional cases by recording its reasons in writing, and in normal course, recommendations of the board acts as mandatory on the government.

The court said, by creation of the board, the government achieved the object, namely to curtail political interference, as per the direction given by the apex court.

However, despite enacting this law, the government “is not mentally prepared to follow it”, the Bench observed.

“The government of the day still wants to drag its feet and wants to exercise the power, which is not vested in it in law… This conduct cannot be appreciated. It is high time the government, which has an obligation to uphold the rule of law and be a model to its citizens, falls in line and obeys the mandate of law…,” the court said.

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