Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Dec 9:
Slamming the BJD government for trying to get the Odisha Police Bill-2013 passed without adequate public debate, former Minister and senior Congress leader Niranjan Patnaik today termed the Bill as old wine in new bottle, which can’t insulate the police from political interference.
“The provisions of the Bill are contrary to the recommendation of the National Police Commission (NPC) and subsequent reports by expert groups as well as the Supreme Court direction in 2008 in the Prakash Singh Case and will not be able to insulate the police from political interference,” said Patnaik at a press conference here.
He said that the NPC (1979-1981), in its second report, had observed that the police force has become an extension of the party in power and had proposed a State Security Commission to exercise superintendence over the state police, a task presently performed by the state government.
However, the Police Bill has changed the composition and function of the state security commission as proposed by the NPC, robbing it of credibility and teeth in the process. The Commission has been made just another arm of the government and a ‘talk shop’, stated the former Minister.
As per the Draft Police Act formulated by NPC, the State Security Commission is supposed to consist of the minister in-charge of the Police as ex-officio Chairman, two MLAs, one representing the ruling party and other from the opposition, as members and four independent members including a retired Judge of the High Court, a former Civil Servant and social scientists andacademics of public standing and eminence.
The Ribeiro Committee in 1998 had suggested inclusion of the Leader of the Opposition, a sitting or retired Judge to be nominated by the Chief Justice of the High Court and three non-political citizens of proven merit and integrity as members. The draft Act prepared on the request of Government of India by eminent jurist Soli Sorabjee in 2006 also includes the Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly, a retired High Court Judge nominated by the Chief Justice of the High Court and five non-political persons of proven integrity and competence as members. The five independent members are to be appointed on the recommendation of a Selection Panel headed by a retired Chief Justice of a High Court as per the draft Act.
“The Odisha Police Bill has quite deliberately excluded the Leader of the Opposition and a retired High Court Judge. The members are to be selected by the government rather than by an independent selection panel as proposed by NPC, Rebeiro Committee and Sorabjee Committee. Not merely the composition of the State Security Commission has been diluted to make it indistinguishable from the government, its functions as conceived by NPC and the subsequent Committees as well as the Supreme Court has also been diluted,” said the senior Congress leader adding that the Commission will no longer exercise superintendence over the police and it will be ‘business as usual’.
Stating that Sorabjee Committee fixed the tenure of the state DGP for two years so that the Police Chief does not operate under constant pressure of removal, he said. Though the new Bill does provide for a two-year term, a clause has been incorporated as Section 4 (3) (e) by which the DGP can be transferred to any equivalent post under the state or central government.
The Bill shows a colonial mentality and a bureaucratic approach that disenfranchises the Constables and Havildars for all times to come, said Patnaik.
He demanded the Bill should be sent to a Select Committee of the Assembly so that infirmities can be removed through scrutiny by members as well as the considered views of the public and experts.