Govt could have handled commissioner's move better

With the abrupt ouster of erstwhile Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria, the Maharashtra government’s grip over administration appears to be slack. Part of good public administration is the art of effectively managing how the public perceives decisions taken by the government. But the state seems to have faltered on this count, with the sudden transfer raising eyebrows among citizens.

The government also overlooked vital principles of administrative laws and jurisprudence in rushing to move Maria out of office. Whatever reasons the state might have had to move Maria out of the police department by promoting him to DG of Home Guards, it certainly had no right to disregard the administrative rulebook. This decision appears in clear violation of Section 22 (C) of the Maharashtra Police Act, which mandates every transfer and promotion be scrutinized by a Police Establishment Board. The move doesn’t abide by Section 22 (M) either, which explicitly states when a transfer is out of turn, there should be a clear public interest involved, as well as grounds for administrative exigencies. As per the law, even the government is duty-bound to give clear reasoning for an out-of-turn transfer.

The last time the appointment of a CP was a controversy was in 2004, when the state abruptly transferred Commissioner PS Pasricha and replaced him with AN Roy. In an affidavit then, the state had pledged never to upgrade the commissioner’s post in the future. The decision to upgrade the post of commissioner from an additional director general (ADG) rank to the director general (DG) rank is violation of that administrative principle.

In his book A Matter of Principle, well-known American philosopher of constitutional law and jurisprudence, Ronald Dworkin, highlighted the consequences of governments caring little for principle. This, Dworkin had warned, would cheapen principles and diminish the government’s authority. Clearly, the Maharashtra government is not paying heed.

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