On Monday, a bench of justice Gita Mittal and justice OS Mehta, hearing a petition filed by the All-India Railway Protection Force Association (AIRPFA), ordered the Union government to file a reply to the points raised by the petitioner within a week.
The job of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) might be to protect passengers of the Indian Railways and the assets of the national transporter. But for the past couple of days, if there is anything that has commanded the undivided attention of the RPF top brass and boots on the ground, it is the case in the Delhi High Court filed against the deputation of IPS officers into the RPF.
On Monday, a bench of justice Gita Mittal and justice OS Mehta, hearing a petition filed by the All-India Railway Protection Force Association (AIRPFA), ordered the Union government to file a reply to the points raised by the petitioner within a week. The Delhi HC set the next hearing for May 19.The AIRPFA is a one-of-its-kind union or association of constables and officers up to the rank of inspector in an armed force of the Union.
The AIRPFA has contended that an amendment made to the Railway Protection Force Act 1957 has clearly stated that there would be no deputation of personnel from other forces in the RPF. The fight is over the fact that the RPF has had IPS officers as its director general since the inception of the force and no direct officer from the RPF category has been able to get to any post higher than additional director general..
On April 27, the appointments committee of the Cabinet approved SK Bhagat, a 1982 batch IPS officer of the Uttarakhand cadre, as DG, RPF. Bhagat was special DG of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) before being appointed to the RPF. The AIRPFA has managed to get a stay on Bhagat’s appointment as the Delhi High Court order of May 2 states that ‘the respondents shall not give effect to the recommendation dated April 27 till the next date of hearing’.
The issue could change the way the RPF functions because it could become the only large paramilitary force without any IPS officer at its helm. Incidentally, the RPF is the only paramilitary force which is under the Ministry of Railways rather than the Ministry of Home Affairs or the Ministry of Defence.
The issue has come at a time when a section of the RPF believes the force is now good enough to be the sole policing system on the vast railway network. In fact, the railways has moved a proposal to make the RPF the federal railway security agency, but this has faced a host of queries from the Union Law and Judiciary as well as the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.
Currently, about 2,300 trains on vulnerable routes are escorted by the RPF and about 220 trains by the railway police of the respective states the train passes through. This is apart from the personnel of both the RPF and railway police who protect the ladies’ coaches of suburban trains in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Secunderabad and Delhi National Capital Region, said officials.
The RPF has a strength of about 75,000 personnel nationwide of which about 2,600 personnel are in Central Railway’s suburban segment and 2,100 in Western Railway’s suburban segment.