This is in regard to appointing of a retired police officer to Head S.I.T., Probing idol theft cases. Yesterday, 12th April the Supreme Court has upheld the Madras High Court’s appointment of A.G. ponn Manickavel as the Head of Special Investigation Team to probe Idol theft cases in Tamil Nadu.

The State of Tamil Nadu had approached the Apex Court challenging the High Court order contending that Ponn Manickavel after superannuation could not have exercised any power of police officer as entrusted on a police officer under the Code of Criminal Procedure.

In this appeal, the Bench comprising of Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice K M Joseph considered the issue whether the High Court, in exercise of jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India can appoint a police officer after his superannuation to head a Special Investigation Team (S.I.T.) to carry out investigations and other functions, which can be exercised by a police officer under the Code of Criminal Procedure?

Investigation Can Be Handed Over To Retired Police Officials If There Are Sufficient Reasons

The Court noticed that the High Courts and the Supreme Court have included retired Police Officers to be part of SIT or to head a SIT.

The Bench observed:

“For sufficient reason investigation can be handed over to a person who is retired or no longer in employment. The functions which are to be performed by that person is under authority of Court’s order. There may be varied situations and circumstances where a former officer is entrusted with an investigation or any other function to achieve an object or purpose. When the constitutional courts direct particular officer to carry on specific job that order cannot be treated to be put that person in office of that post with all necessary consequences. The particular object is entrusted or only a specific job is entrusted to the officer which he has to carry. The Court in issuing such direction neither creates any ex-cadre post nor affects the post of officer by giving any kind of appointment to a post”.

Not To Be Normally Resorted to, However the bench clarified that the filing of the statutory reports as per the procedure prescribed in the Code of Criminal Procedure, have to be done by the officer authorized as per Code of Criminal Procedure. It further added:

“There might arise exceptional cases where the direction for appointment of retired officers may be unavoidable to achieve the goal of justice but the High Court may resort to the power under Article 226 only after weighing all pros and cons and after exhausting all options and as a matter of last resort. Taking services of a retired police officer or any other retired personnel is not to be normally resorted to since in the State concerned, there is always no dearth of competent and able officers, hence whenever the Court finds it necessary to take assistance of services of the retired officers or personnel, it should be with necessary caution and resorted to only when there are very valid and unavoidable circumstances”.

The Bench however, partly allowed the appeals, by modifying a few directions issued by the Madras High Court. It said that the State shall fix a honorarium to be paid to retired cop in addition to pension to be drawn by him. The bench also observed that it was not necessary for the High Court to burden itself with scrutinising each and every report and requiring each and every report to be submitted before the Court. Report of progress of the investigation shall be submitted to the Additional Director General of Police of Idol Wing and report to the High Court may be submitted by the Special Officer when any further directions are required from the High Court, the bench said.

The Bench also upheld the High Court Order quashing the Government Order which transferred all the under investigation cases being investigated by the Special Team constituted for Idol Theft cases and all such future cases to the Central Bureau of Investigation.