SPOs are not entitled to any protection as afforded to ordinary Police Officers under Police Rules or Civil Service Regulations: J&K High Court

Justice Sanjay Dhar
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  • Post published:September 20, 2021
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In a significant judgment, bench of Justice Sanjay Dhar has observed that SPOs enjoy same powers, privileges and protections as do the ordinary officers in the matter of crowd control, prevention of unlawful assemblies or contingencies of like nature.

The said provision cannot be interpreted in a manner so as to extend even the powers, privileges and protections relating to service conditions of an ordinary police officer to the SPOs, who, admittedly, do not hold any civil posts regulated by any Statutory rules. Therefore, they are not entitled to any protection as afforded to ordinary police officers under Police Rules or Civil Service Regulations.

The Court also observed that the petitioner was not entitled to any right of hearing or enquiry keeping in view the nature of his engagement, therefore, it was not incumbent upon respondents to hold an enquiry or give an opportunity of hearing to the petitioner before disengaging his services as an SPO.

In the instant case, the petitioner had challenged the order by which his services as Special Police Officer had been disengaged and the order whereby approval accorded to the appointment of petitioner as Constable in J&K Police, had been cancelled ab initio. The petitioner had taken the plea that SPOs are entitled to same privileges and protections as any other ordinary police officer.

Facts:
Petitioner was engaged as an SPO in the year 2005 and later, his appointment as a Constable in J&K Police was approved. However, in the meantime, petitioner was implicated in a case registered under FIR No.288/2010 for offences under Section 302, 364, 120-B RPC of Police Station, Bijbehara where after facing trial he was ultimately acquitted in terms of judgment dated 11.04.2016 passed by Principal Sessions Judge, Anantnag.

In the year 2011, the petitioner was later disengaged from his services without affording any opportunity of being heard. The petitioner has challenged the same order of disengagement in this writ petition.

Submissions:
Mr. Aftab Malik, Counsel for the petitioner submitted that orders impugned passed by respondent no. 5  disengaging and cancelling the appointment of the petitioner as Constable were passed without observing the principal of natural justice and without conducting any enquiry against the petitioner;

Mr. Malik further further submitted that as per Section 19 of the J&K Police Act, an SPO is entitled to same privileges and protections as any other ordinary police officer and, as such, the official respondents were not justified in dispensing with the services of the petitioner without observing the procedure prescribed under the J&K Police Act and the rules framed thereunder.

He argued that the petitioner has been honourably exonerated of the charges by the Court of learned Principal Sessions Judge, Anantnag, after a full-dress trial and, as such, he is entitled to restoration of his previous position.

In support of his submissions he relied upon the judgment of this Court in case titled Gh. Haider v. State of J&K & Ors.; 2013(3) JKJ 240.

Observations:
The Court after referring to Section 18 of the Police Act observed that SPOs are appointed by Police Officers above a particular rank for specific purposes when the police force ordinarily employed for preserving the peace is not sufficient for its preservation and for the protection of the inhabitants.

The Court said that the provision makes it clear that residents of neighbourhood can be appointed as SPOs for dealing with specific contingencies. Thus, engagement of SPOs is not of a permanent nature but it is only to take care of a particular contingency.

The Court while interpreting Section 19 of J&K Police Act observed that SPOs enjoy same powers, privileges and protections as do the ordinary officers in the matter of crowd control, prevention of unlawful assemblies or contingencies of like nature.

The said provision cannot be interpreted in a manner so as to extend even the powers, privileges and protections relating to service conditions of an ordinary police officer to the SPOs, who, admittedly, do not hold any civil posts regulated by any Statutory rules.

Therefore, they are not entitled to any protection as afforded to ordinary police officers under Police Rules or Civil Service Regulations. The Court relied on the judgment of a Division Bench of this Court in State of J&K vs. Mohammad Iqbal Mallah (LPA No.153 of 2012 decided on 05.06.2014).

The Court further observed that having held that the petitioner was not entitled to any right of hearing or enquiry keeping in view the nature of his engagement, therefore, it was not incumbent upon respondents to hold an enquiry or give an opportunity of hearing to the petitioner before disengaging his services as an SPO.

The Court while dismissing the petition held that the order of disengagement does not suffer from any legal infirmity.

Case Details:
Bilal Ahmad Sheikh vs State of J&K and Ors – SWP No.2548/2017
Coram: Justice Sanjay Dhar.
Mr. Aftab Ahmad, Advocate, appeared for the Petitioner
Mr. B. A. Dar, Sr.AAG, appeared for the Respondents

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