In reinstating Kerala DGP TP Senkumar, Supreme Court sets historical precedent

The Supreme Court on Monday reinstated TP Senkumar as the Kerala DGP in an order that sets the tone for greater transparency in police transfers.

The Supreme Court on Monday reinstated the Kerela DGP TP Senkumar who was removed from his post after the new Left Democratic Front-led government was elected to power in the state.

The top court not only set out a historic precedent but also elaborately laid down the process, power and the limits of political leaders when dealing with the transfer of top police officers.

The apex court bench led by Justice Lokur did not mince words. The Supreme Court court was clear that law lays down clear rules and processes involving the transfer of the top police officers and the prerogative of the legislature should be exercised reasonably and objectively.

The court noted in its order that the DGP was removed in the present case without 'reasonable cause'. The court delved into the notes and orders passed for the transfer.

Two prime incidents - the Puttingal Devi Temple fire which led to death of more than 100 people and Jisha murder case - were cited as lapses on DGP Senkumar's part and as incidents that arguably could lead to 'erosion of public trust'. However, the court noted that none of these incidents were used as a reason for transfer.

Making use of its sweeping order, Justice Lokur said it would be a tragedy for the Supreme Court to agree that judicial review is not available merely to TP Senkumar because the post of DGP is a sensitive one.

Justice Lokur further said, "If such a view were to hold the field, Article 14 of the Constitution, the citizen's struggle against executive arbitrariness would become irrelevant and this Court would be surrendering its constitutional obligation,".

Article 14 deals with equality of citizens before law and is a fundamental right in the constitution of India.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court agreed that the two instances cited - the fire tragedy and the Jisha murder case - were not handled effectively by the DGP TP Senkumar.

However, the apex court went on say that if the accountability were to be fixed in this manner, "the entire official machinery starting from the Chief Minister down to the Chief Secretary and the Additional Chief Secretary are equally to blame." The top court also noted that there was no independent member in the State Security Commission, which is important to ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the state police.

The State Security Commission serves as a watchdog body with some official members as well as some non-official ones who should be chosen in such a manner that they are able to function independent of government control, the Supreme Court order notes

The court candidly said that the reasons stated in the order to transfer Senkumar cannot be supplemented by other reasons through an affidavit or otherwise.

Monday's judgement has clearly set the tone for greater transparency, and combating political interference, in police transfers.

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