ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has observed police force cannot be made an instrument for the promotion of vested, elite interests.
“Integrity, independence and trustworthiness are crucial attributes of the police force for ensuring peace in and smooth functioning of the society,” noted Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial in a three-page order he dictated on Wednesday.
A three-judge bench, headed by the CJP and comprising Justice Ayesha A. Malik and Justice Athar Minallah, issued notices to all the provincial police officers, home secretaries and the Islamabad administration to furnish relevant data of past eight years on the criteria and pattern tabulated in a set of petitions moved against the alleged political interference in the transfer and posting in Punjab police.
In their petitions, Rana Tahir Saleem and Mohammad Javaid apprised the court of the alleged violation of Police Order 2002, mentioning that nine Lahore capital city police officers (CCPOs) and eight inspector general of police (IGPs) were changed between June 7, 2018 and Aug 29, 2022.
The frequent reshuffle reflected that the CCPOs and IGPs had average tenures of 4.5 and 6.2 months only, respectively, according to the petitions.
Punjab govt is in continuous breach of Article 15 of Police Order, says SC ruling
In the order, the apex court noted that Article 15(2) of the Police Order, 2002 provides for a tenure of three years for the post of DPO and Article (15)(3) allows early transfer of a DPO only in case of inefficiency or ineffectiveness but with the concurrence of both the district government head and the District Public Service Safety Commission.
The court order stated the Punjab government failed to follow the statutory command and was in continuous breach of Article 15 of the Police Order.
Likewise, it added, the petition showed that the average tenure of an IGP in the province during the said period was 6.25 months.
Article 12 of the Police Order prescribes that the term of office of a Provincial Police Officer (IGP) and a Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) will be three years.
The Punjab authorities have also been directed to file their response to the allegations made in the petitions within two weeks, as the case will be taken up again in the week commencing on Dec 12.
Barrister Haris Azmat represented petitioner Mohammad Javaid whereas Advocate Shahzad Shaukat appeared on behalf of Mr Saleem via a video link from Lahore.
In its order, the SC said securing smooth functioning of society was a priority for the police force in the entire country. The issue in hand concerns the enforcement of citizens’ fundamental right of life and liberty, quite apart from the lawful enforcement of the Police Order in the province, the verdict said.
The counsel for the petitioners earlier submitted there were 36 districts in the Punjab and each district witnessed frequent transfer of District Police Officer (DPO) during the last four years, despite the fact that DPO is the fulcrum of the police administration and for the conduct of criminal investigation in every district.
The consolidated average tenure of service of all the DPOs during the last four years in all the districts of Punjab is 5.86 months.
The counsel earlier argued the frequent transfer of the police officers in Punjab occurred on account of political influence/intervention. He highlighted the recent instance of transfer of the lady DPO in Layyah allegedly on account of political intervention.
Frequent transfer of administrative heads of the police force of districts, metropolitan cities and the provinces affects the command structure of the force and its capability to effectively render public service in accordance with the law, the order said.
Resultantly, the performance of the criminal justice system was diminished. Insecurity of tenure leads to a tendency among police officers to seek political patronage for securing or retaining the important posts, which in turn worsens the service fibre, the court observed.
The counsel earlier explained that one of the provinces, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, implemented the Police Order faithfully and, therefore, KP police force was credited to be independent and fair in the performance of their duties.
He said Balochistan police also enjoyed public support and respect because the officers faced less political interference there. But the situation in Punjab was different and the provincial government was liable to account, he added.
Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2022