The Supreme Court on Monday directed CPM-led LDF government in Kerala to reinstate state police chief T P Senkumar, who, according to the court, was “unfairly and arbitrarily dealt with”.
Issuing the first such directive for reinstatement of a top police officer, a bench led by Justice Madan B Lokur invalidated the state government’s order dated June 1, 2016 whereby Senkumar was shunted out as DGP and made chairman and managing director of Kerala Police Housing and Construction Corporation Ltd.
The bench also quashed the orders passed by the Central Administrative Tribunal and the High Court, which had maintained that the state government’s decision was not mala fide and that it had the authority to transfer Senkumar in view of “serious dissatisfaction in general public about efficiency of police in his jurisdiction”.
Examining the Kerala Police Act 2011, which assures a minimum tenure of two years for DGPs, the court said there was no justification in law to displace Senkumar before the end of his term. Senkumar was appointed in May 2015.
It further stated that the court was “disturbed” by the fact that aspersions were cast on Senkumar only after the LDF government came to power in May 2016. “The removal or displacement or transfer out of an officer from a sensitive tenure post requires serious consideration and good reasons that can be tested so that the officer is not dealt with as a pawn in a game. Unfortunately, the somewhat exacting standards are absent in the present case and the appellant (Senkumar) was displaced from the post of state police chief summarily and without reasonable cause,” it held.
The court added that the state government’s orders to remove top police officials prematurely cannot be treated as immune from judicial review since this would make the citizen’s struggle against executive arbitrariness irrelevant and “this court would be surrendering its constitutional obligation.”
“This is not to say that the police must be treated with kid gloves — all that is sought to be conveyed is that a certain degree of freedom is required to be given to the police by insulating it from possible attempts to control its independent functioning,” clarified the bench.
Senkumar was removed on the basis of two notes by the state’s Additional Home Secretary, indicting him for Puttingal Temple tragedy in Kollam in which more than 100 people lost their lives. The government blamed him for allegedly protecting erring police officials. The second case related to alleged laxity in the initial probe into the murder of a Dalit girl.
But in his affidavit in the court, Senkumar said the CPM was acting malaciously against him since he had conducted honest probe into the murders of RMP leader T P Chandrasekharan, Muslim League activist Ariyil Shukkoor and RSS leader Kathiroor Manoj. The involvement of CPM leaders in all these cases was alleged.
The bench noted that there was nothing to hold Senkumar directly responsible for any lapses.
Senkumar hailed the verdict, saying: “It is a historic judgement… It is not only beneficial to me but also to all officers in the country who work honestly.” Asked whether the government would reinstate him, Senkumar said,“It is the responsibility of all to implement the judgment.”