The Supreme Court today ruled that Dilbag Singh will continue as the acting chief of the Jammu and Kashmir police until the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) takes a decision on the matter.

The bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked the UPSC to take a decision on the “suitability” of senior police officers who can be appointed as the state’s Director General of Police (DGP) within four weeks.

The Jammu and Kashmir government had appointed Mr Singh as the state’s acting DGP, replacing SP Vaid, on September 6. Mr Vaid was shunted off to the state’s transport department amid serious differences with newly-appointed Governor Satya Pal Malik and a major controversy over the release of relatives of militants in exchange for family members of kidnapped policemen.

The petition filed by one Prakash Singh contended that although the senior-most officer should have been appointed after Mr Vaid’s exit, a junior officer was instead given charge. The state government cited “complex security concerns” as the reason for Mr Singh’s unconventional appointment, and asked the Supreme Court to modify an earlier order making it mandatory for all states to send a list of three senior-most IPS officers to the UPSC for clearance before appointing the DGP.

At an earlier hearing, Advocate Shoeb Alam — appearing for the Jammu and Kashmir government — said the appointment of an acting DGP was purely an interim measure to tide over the situation until a regular appointment was made in consultations with UPSC. “We cannot afford to let the police force be without a chief,” he said, adding that the government had launched consultations with the commission hours after Mr Vaid’s transfer.

However, Advocate Prashant Bhushan — appearing for the petitioner — said the DGP cannot be removed without consulting the state security commissioner. Terming the appointment as “gross misconduct”, he pointed out that the acting DGP appointed by the government was number five in seniority and had earlier been suspended in a recruitment scam.

In its petition, the Jammu and Kashmir government had cited several factors, including security concerns, the upcoming civic body polls, insurgency and militancy-related activities, and the Valley’s unique law-and-order requirements to assert that the state should have a police chief at all times.

“As such, as a purely ad-interim measure, the state government has been constrained to appoint the Director General, Prisons of State of Jammu and Kashmir, Dilbagh Singh… as the In-Charge Director General of Police till a regular arrangement is made,” it added.

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