The Bombay High Court directed the Centre on Wednesday to take a reasoned decision on whether the tenure of Maharashtra Director General of Police (DGP) Dattatray Padsalgikar needed to be extended. Padsalgikar, who has been granted two short extensions of three months each in the past, will complete his tenure as DGP on February 28.
The state’s proposal to grant him further extension, to enable him to serve as DGP for at least two years, is pending before the Union government.
A bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N M Jamdar questioned the Centre’s decision to grant him short- term extensions. They said that considering the nature of a DGP’s job and his seniority, it is important the officer has a stable tenure.
The High Court also noted that a previous judgement of the Supreme Court on a similar issue of extension of tenure suggested that senior bureaucrats should serve in one post for at least two years to grant them some stability, and to enable them to take and implement decisions.
“What is the purpose of such short extensions? What will an officer do in three months? Your DGP does not know whether he is going to be there next month, so how can he plan anything for the state,” it asked.
The bench was hearing a plea filed by Thane-based lawyer RR Tripathi, claiming that the state had “shown favouritism” towards Padsalgikar by granting him such extensions of tenure.
Padsalgikar was due to retire on August 31 last year but was granted an extension of service for three months at that time. On November 30 last year, the Chief Minister granted another three months’ extension to him. Both times, the Maharashtra government had urged the Centre to grant the extension for up to two years.
On Wednesday, both the Centre and the state, through their counsels, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh and Advocate General Ashtosh Kumbhakoni respectively, opposed the PIL.
Both the lawyers urged the court to dismiss the PIL arguing that the decision to grant an extension to Padsalgikar had been taken in “public interest”.
Kumbhakoni told the High Court that the state was only trying to ensure that he served at least for two years as DGP, and as a consequence, police commissioner Subodh Jaiswal, the senior-most officer in the state after Padsalgikar, also served as the commissioner for at least two years.
He also told the court that the state had decided to ask the Centre for a clear answer on whether or not Padsalgikar was going to be granted a longer extension.
“If the Centre says no, then as per procedure, we will ask the Maharashtra government and Union Public Service Commission to intervene, and if we don’t get any relief there, then as per procedure, the officer next in line for the post will be made DGP,” Kumbhakoni said.
At this, the bench directed the Centre to take a decision on Padsalgikar’s tenure within the next four weeks.
“We understand such decisions need time and you must give it much thought. Go through all requirements but keep in mind that a senior officer must be granted a stable tenure. Therefore, take a decision, back it with good reason,” the bench said.