The transfer of Mumbai Police Commissioner P S Pasricha to the post of managing director of the Maharashtra State Police Welfare and Housing Corporation has come as a shock as he had been appointed only in November 2003.
Pune Police Commissioner A N Roy will replace Pasricha who had taken charge as Mumbai police chief when the force was going through its worst crisis with several top policemen arrested in connection with the fake stamp scam. His brief had been simple - clean up and rejuvenate the force.
In the two-and-a-half months that he was in charge, he had transferred tainted police officers out of the city and clipped the wings of some others in a bid to restore the credibility of the force.
Pasricha did not hide his disappointment at the turn of events while people are trying to understand the rationale behind the abrupt change, which was accompanied by a few other changes at the top level.
Home Minister R R Patil defended the decision saying, "The post (of Commissioner of Police) is for an official of the rank of Additional Director General while Pasricha has been promoted to the post of Director General. So he has to vacate the post and accept a position in keeping with his new rank.
I agree that Pasricha has been given a very short period of time to serve the city but don't think his transfer would demoralise the police force. The government took this step only after considering all rules and regulations.
At the time of choosing the new Mumbai police chief in November 2003, K K Kashyap was among the contenders. The government did not select him because he had been promoted to the rank of Director General and was appointed as commandant general of the Home Guards.
Pasricha was due for a promotion, which he got. But if he were allowed to continue as Police Commissioner even after being promoted to the rank of Director General, what message would be conveyed to Kashyap and other officials?
We would never compromise with rules and regulations for any one person. We never upgrade or downgrade any post for anyone. Pasricha's transfer is not politically motivated. We are just following the rules and regulations.
His successor A N Roy is a very talented and experienced official."
However, opposition parties alleged that the change is politically motivated.
BJP state general secretary Vinod Tawde said, "Roy is consider to be very close to Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar. We will oppose the change."
"When the Congress-NCP Democratic Front government appointed Pasricha as Commissioner of the Mumbai Police, it said many good things about him. Yet, it transferred him within a very short period of time. This is inexplicable," Tawde said.
Shiv Sena spokesperson Subhash Desai agreed. "Many bad practices were introduced in the home department when it was headed by Bhujbal. These have not been stopped even after his exit," he said.
"We are very much satisfied with Pasricha's performance thus far. We see him as a very upright, competitive, creative and competent official. This transfer is politically motivated."
Former police officials were already unhappy with the goings-on in the Maharashtra home department. They believe the latest development has only worsened the situation at a time when the credibility of the police force and its morale has taken a severe beating.
They agree that the commissioner's post should go to an officer of the rank of additional DG but expressed fears that the state government was treating the issue in a cavalier manner.
"At the time of his appointment, the state government was very well aware that Pasricha was due for a promotion after about two-and-a-half months. Now using his promotion as an excuse to transfer him out of the commissioner's post exposes the carelessness with which the state government is dealing with such a big decision," said former Mumbai police commissioner Amarjit Singh Samra.
"The appointment of a police commissioner is related with the safety and security of the citizens of a metropolis and the state. So the government must take every factor into consideration at the time of making such appointments.
"What happened in Pasricha's case is demoralising for the citizens and police force. Such decisions involve several senior officials. How can they make such a silly mistake?"
Samra though had a good word for the Pasricha's successor. "Roy is also a very competent and talented official," he said.
Former director general of police Arvind Inamdar had quit after being unable to get along with his political masters. He was unhappy with the turn of events.
"Why did the government not think about Pasricha's promotion at the time of his appointment as Commissioner of Mumbai Police. What happened with Pasricha is very frustrating and demoralising things for an official. What can one achieve in two-and-a-half months? Officers need a longer tenure, especially in posts that demand firm leadership.There should be a long-term policy with regard to appointments to such posts. Sudden transfers affect everybody's morale," he said.