Kerala Left Democratic Front (LDF) government’s move to file a review petition against last week’s Supreme Court's verdict in reinstating senior IPS officer T P Senkumar as the State Director General of Police (DGP) has disappointed legal circles.
In its landmark judgment on 24 April 2017, the apex court had termed the government order removing Senkumar from the top position on the ground of poor performance as DGP arbitrary and unfair and directed the government to reinstate him.
Legal experts feel that the dithering on the part of the government in implementing the judgment even after a week was a wilful act to deny the fruits of the decree to Senkumar. Senior lawyer Kaleeswaram Raj had said that the government may have to pay a big price if it goes back to the Supreme Court with a plea to review the order.
State Law Secretary B G Harindranath, whose opinion was sought on the maintainability of a review petition, had opined that it may portend serious legal consequences for the government. State Advocate General C P Sudhkhar Prasad had also reportedly warned the government against such a course of action.
But the government ignored this advice and went on to seek the opinion of senior SC lawyer Harish Salve, who had unsuccessfully represented the government in the appeal filed by Senkumar against the now impugned orders of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) and the Kerala High Court. Most of his arguments in favour of the government action were turned down by the apex court.
Before the government could move with the legal process, Senkumar, who is due to retire from the service on 30 June 2017, has filed a contempt of court petition against the state government for disobeying the apex court order. He has named Chief Secretary Nalini Netto personally as the major condemner.
In his petition filed on Saturday, Senkumar said the chief secretary, who is the authority to issue the order of reinstatement, was trying to delay it till the court closes for nearly the two-months-long summer vacation on 9 May with the ulterior motive of denying him the relief granted by the court.
The petitioner has sought to make a strong case of circumventing the apex court order against the chief secretary. Legal experts feel that if the court accepts his argument, it could land the chief secretary even in jail.
The Supreme Court has viewed the contempt of court seriously in several similar cases in the past. In 1996, the apex court had sentenced a senior Karnataka IAS officer J Vasudevan to one month’s imprisonment for not implementing its order in the matter of appointment of an engineer of Bangalore City Corporation.
Senkumar has personally targeted Nalini as the government order removing him from the police chief’s post on the second day of the LDF government was based on the report she submitted in her capacity as Additional Chief Secretary (Home).
Political observers consider this as a deliberate move since there were allegations that she had forged some documents to strengthen the case against Senkumar. A petition seeking a vigilance probe into this was accepted in the file by a vigilance special court in the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram on 27 January.
The petition filed by Satheesh Vasanth had accused her of maliciously fabricating records in the government file, amounting to forgery and falsification of public documents. The petition was withdrawn after CAT and the high court upheld the government order removing Senkumar.
Senkumar feels that the petition had become relevant after the apex court found the charges levelled against him in the report with regards to the Puttingal temple fire mishap and Jisha murder case was wrong and unsubstantiated. He told Firstpost that the petitioner could revive the petition in the light of the latest Supreme Court verdict.
Senkumar said that the decisions of incumbent DGP Loknath Behra could also be challenged in the court as he had ceased to become the police chief after the Supreme Court judgment reinstated him.
Kaleeswaram Raj, who practices both in high court and the Supreme Court, agrees with him. In an article in a Malayalam daily, he said that the 1 June 2016 order appointing Behra as the DGP had become invalid with the Supreme Court judgment.
“Technically, Senkumar is the police chief from the day Supreme Court has passed the judgment. Anybody else occupying the post is an open defiance of the apex court. This will bring serious trouble to the government,” the senior lawyer said.
He said governance was not merely building roads and maintaining services. It is also a process involving the protection of legal rights of citizens. If the government had abided by the Supreme Court order and reinstated Senkumar, it would have added to its credentials.
Why is the government reluctant to bring back Senkumar? Political observers feel that it’s because Senkumar was an upright officer, who does not dance according to the tunes of politicians.
Senkumar himself had pointed out in his petition that the government was unhappy with him because he had carried out an impartial investigation in many political violence cases, in which several leaders of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) were involved.
He said that the CPI (M) was annoyed with him particularly after several senior leaders of the party were booked in connection with a series of cases related to political murders like that of T P Chandrashekharan, Shukoor and Kadirur Manoj.
In Manoj and Shukoor murder cases, police made CPI (M) Kannur district secretary P Jayarajan an accused. Both the cases are now being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Senkumar had also pursued the conspiracy angle in the Chandrashekharan murder case, in which the slain leader’s widow had pointed the needle of suspicion towards some top leaders of the party, including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan himself.
The investigation into the conspiracy angle came to a standstill after Senkumar’s exit. Chandrashekharan’s widow Rema has been demanding a CBI probe into the conspiracy angle.
Interestingly, several actions of the police after Behra took over as the DGP came under severe criticism from many quarters, including the high court. The chief minister himself had admitted lapses on the part of the police in more than a dozen cases.
The latest in a series of police excesses is the forced removal of two members of a woman’s collective-Penpilai Oruma- who staged an indefinite fast at Munnar in protest against the abusive comments made against women by Power Minister M M Mani, on Saturday.
The police action came a day after CPI (M) workers tried to remove them by force. A strong posse of police posted at the venue had remained a mute spectator when the ruling party men tried to demolish the tents in which the protestors sat on hunger strike.
The high court had on Friday came down heavily on the police for not registering a case against the minister for allegedly abusing women and threatening civil servants. Viewing Mani’s speech seriously, a division bench asked, “Has the police chief not seen this”.
“What’s happening in the state?” the court asked while considering a petition for a directive to the state police chief to probe Mani’s alleged use of abusive language against women and his threatening of civil servants.
The police had also refused to come to the rescue of revenue officials when they were confronted by the CPI (M) while trying to remove an encroachment at Munnar recently. They acted only after Sub-Collector Sriram Venkataraman had asked them to give their refusal in writing.
Senkumar had also cited an increase in political violence cases after his removal. As many as eight political murders were reported from Kannur district alone after his exit.
“The police force in the state is now in a mess. Senkumar can clear it and give it a new direction. The CPI (M) and its government do not want this. They do not realise that the people are suffering for this lawlessness. They will not tolerate this for long,” says Congress leader M Liju.
Updated Date: May 03, 2017 16:45 PM