A balance needs to be struck between the government’s legitimate role and the police chief’s operational autonomy.
Appointment of police chiefs: There exists a democratic accountability which makes it mandatory for the police chief to remain answerable to the elected government, however he should have operational autonomy. Thus the appointing and removal procedure should be transparent. However,
The Present appointment procedure is very opaque which gives room to the unfair practices.
The supreme court has trusted the power of selecting candidates for the Police chief post to the UPSC and state government to appoint a candidate from that list.
However, the Model Police Bill, 2015 places the responsibility in the hands of the State Security Commission (SSCs), which consists of Leader of the Opposition, independent members from civil society.
Lapses in SSCs:
These bodies are hardly truly independent:
Some lack the leader of opposition.
Others lack independent members. They lack the balanced composition.
They are still dominated by the political representative.
As per the RTI filed in 2019, only four SSCs have held their meetings since 2014.
Moreover, around 23 states have held their discretion to appoint the police chief.
Assam, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Meghalaya and Mizoram are the only states where responsibility of shortlisting the candidates is left with SSCs.
What needs to be done?
The National Police Commission (NPC), constituted in 1979 was the first to highlight the need to shift the responsibility of appointment and removal from government alone to bipartisan or a need of a state level independent oversight body consisting of government members as well. This was later reaffirmed by the Supreme Court of India in its judgment in 2006, in the Prakash Singh case.
Ensuring more transparency by devising a certain objective criteria for appointments and removal, to prevent politically motivated adverse actions..
The Supreme Court devised the criteria basis of length of service, service record, and range of experience and a performance appraisal of the candidates over the past 10 years.
National Police Commission, had put forward the requirement of seeking approval of the State Security Commission for removal of police chief.
The rule of law requires such decisions be for compelling reasons and based on verifiable material that can be objectively tested.