The verdict of the Supreme Court directing the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government to reinstate former director general of police T.P. Senkumar is surely historically relevant.
The state government on the fifth day of assuming office had transferred Senkumar citing ineffective performance as the reason following which he had moved the apex court. The verdict will affect not only the Kerala government but all the other state governments as well. All the state governments that has been constantly shuffling the senior police officers prompted merely by political reasons, will now be required to function according to the recommendations of the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh case. The apex court delivered a historic judgement in the 2006 case considering the public interest litigation filed by former DGPs Prakash Singh and N K Singh. The court instructed the Central and state governments to comply with a set of directives such as constituting a State Security Commission (SSC), ensuring that the DGP is appointed through the merit-based transparent process, secure a minimum tenure of two years, setting up a Police Establishment Board to decide on transfers, postings and promotions of police officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) and forming a Police Complaint Authority at the state and district levels to inquire into the public complaints against police officers.
Although the review petitions filed by a few state governments challenging the verdict were rejected by the Supreme Court, the report later submitted by the monitoring committee expressed disappointment at the laxity of the governments in implementing the judgement. The apex court didn’t conceal its displeasure in the state government neglecting the warning against exercising unwarranted influence or pressure on the state police by the politicians and their key advisors. The court also noted that there was no Commission that should be set up by the state government in order to protect the police force from the pressure and control of the politicians. The Supreme Court had in the Prakash Raj case pointed out that the policing shouldn’t be a disaster going according to the likes and dislikes of the political leadership.
It’s obvious that the failure of the state government in proving the two important cases cited as main reasons in transferring Senkumar- the failure of the DGP in investigating and resolving the Jisha murder case and the Puttingal fire tragedy on time- prompted the Supreme Court to rule in favour of the DGP. The three reports submitted by Chief Secretary Nalini Netto against him was rejected by the court. It pointed out that the move to transfer Senkumar was politically motivated. Not only the Pinarayi Vijayan government but also the erstwhile Left and Right governments in Kerala as well as the other state governments rigidly demand that the police officers should dance to their tune and be subservient to the interests of even the local party factions. There is also a notion among the people that the first priority of the governments is not to be efficient, honest or fair and just but to be loyal and subservient towards the political leadership. Therefore, there exists a scenario where the police and the executives ignore their prime commitment, and are compelled to function according to the likes and dislikes of the political leadership. Yogi Adityanath, the hardline Hindutwa priest who took charge as the UP Chief Minister, is frantically reshuffling the police and the bureaucracy. The SC verdict in Senkumar case is therefore a cautioning and warning to such persons.
At the same time, the risk in letting the police force entrusted for the maintenance of law and order, free and unrestrained, shouldn’t be ignored. Several instances have shown that our police force is not completely corruption-free and lack dynamism. It brings little relief that communal sentiments, casteism and nepotism have also touched the police force. In this scenario the concern that things would worsen without even the intervention of popular governments, is justifiable. Along with freeing the police officers from the unwarranted political and other illicit interventions, an environment should be created where they can perform their duties freely and justly and remain sincerely committed towards the constitution and the people without misusing their freedom. One has yet to see whether such positive times will ever be witnessed in the country.