MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Monday said the Maharashtra government had acted in an improper manner when it sent a letter to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in November last year asking it to consider acting state DGP Sanjay Pandey's name for empanelment for the post of state Director General of Police.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice MS Karnik questioned how the then state chief secretary Sitaram Kunte could sign on the three names recommended for the post of Maharashtra DGP on November 1, and a week later write to the UPSC saying it (committee) had erred in its decision making, and that it reconsider Pandey's name.
"It was not proper on part of the chief secretary to write to UPSC a week later saying its selection committee had erred. The law is clear the Maharashtra government could not have asked for such reconsideration. Once you have signed the proceedings, you cannot claim the decision was erroneous and that it be reconsidered," the HC said.
"Mr Sitaram Kunte signed it. So, it wasn't open to him to say at a subsequent stage that the committee must renege its recommendations or that it had erred. He should have said so before signing," it said.
The HC was hearing a public interest litigation filed by advocate Datta Mane seeking directions to the Maharashtra government to appoint a DGP for the state as per recommendation made by the empanelment committee of the UPSC on November 1 last year.
As per Mane's counsel Abhinav Chandrachud, in asking the UPSC to reconsider the recommendations and in delaying the process of appointment of a permanent DGP, the Maharashtra government was acting in breach of the Supreme Court judgement passed in the Prakash Singh case.
Chandrachud argued that in the Prakash Singh judgement, the apex court had said the state DGP's post must be a permanent one and that there cannot be an acting DGP. The SC had also said the tenure of the DGP must be fixed.
In its November 1 meeting, the UPSC selection committee, of which Kunte was a part, had recommended the names of IPS officers Hemant Nagrale, Rajnish Seth and K Venkatesham for the post of Maharashtra DGP, which was lying vacant after the transfer of Subodh Jaiswal to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Kunte had signed off on the three names at the time but on November 8 wrote to the UPSC saying that it had erred in not recommending the current acting DGP Sanjay Pandey's name and that it reconsider the same.
On Monday, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for the Centre, told HC once the names had been recommended, there was no question of a reconsideration.
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, who appeared for the state, however, argued that Kunte had asked the UPSC to reconsider the names after realising an error had been committed by the committee as it had not assessed Pandey's grade, appraisal reports etc correctly.
However, Chief Justice Dipankar Datta said that the state government's letter seemed as an afterthought.
"There was a meeting on November 1, 2021. Did UPSC recommend three names? If yes and if the then chief secretary was a party and he agreed to the recommendations, then how can he later, after having signed the recommendations on November 1, write back a week later to say that the committee hadn't considered one thing or another," the HC asked.
The CJ said the law was clear a selection committee member cannot make a plea for recommendation. The HC will hear the matter further on Tuesday.