No Interference with the Independence of Police: Says SHC

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The Sindh High Court has given another seminal judgment on the autonomy of commandย  and independence of operation of police force, striking and reading down certain provisions of The Police Order, 2001 as revived by an amendment Act, 2019.ย  Another judgment in this series is that of Karamat Ali case, reported as PLD 2018
Sindh 8, authored by Justice Munib Akhtar, which helped the Court in the judgment in hand to arrive at just and fair conclusion regarding the issue of the autonomy and independence of police institution.

The Court has lamented at the recent and the earlier legislations in this regard which aimed to circumvent, undermine and erode the independent function of the police as an institution mandated to safeguard and maintain the rule of law, and law and order situation within the country.

The brief background of the lis in hand was that the Provincial Government of Sindh had introduced certain provisions i.e. section 5, 7, 12,14 15 and 21 in the 2001 Act which had relegated the role of the Inspector General, the apex office of the institution, to a secondary position and that of CM to a primary position in, inter alia, transferring, posting and appointments of police officers. The Court has read down and struck down these provisions for being inconsistent with the Constitutional scheme.

The Court has looked into this matter under Article 199 (1) (c) of the Constitution, as a matter of fundamental rights, because the independence of police force as an institution to carry on its duty to maintain law and order situation is a sine qua non for proper dispensation of justice and to ensure fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution. The Court has held that it is not enough for the State to not to do anything that offends the Fundamental Rights, it may also sometimes requires the State to paly a positive role to do something to ensure the Fundamental Rights of the people. For Instance, right to life, right to a peaceful assembly and right to business are a few, inter alia, rights which require the State to establish an independent institution which is responsible to take actions when these rights are in danger or being violated by other citizens.

Peaceful assembly is the right of the people but if there is apprehension of dander to that assembly or people are under fear and threat to assemble for a just and fair cause, it is the duty of the State i.e. the Police to ensure safety of those people to assemble fearlessly. Hence, Police is an essential part of our justice system without which the affairs of the state cannot function and fundamental rights cannot be ensured in a meaningful way.

The Court hasย  held the office of the Inspector General at the top and has assigned the primary status to the same in terms of running the affairs of the police and has given a secondary status to the provincial government. The judgment requires the provincial government to consult the IGP in policy decisions pertaining to the institution of the police.

In summary, the Judgment reaffirms the rule of the earlier judgment in Karamat Ali case which was upheld by the Supreme Court too and has restrained the provincial government from interference with the autonomy of command and independence of function of police. The Court has termed this practice the legacy of the colonial master of post-independent era which was suited with an organization oriented and oppressive police force to ensure his rule over the people. The Court at the end has emphasized on people-friendly and service oriented police not an armed institution to become a stooge in the hands of powerful elite.

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