Kerala: Handling of the DGP issue

P. Sreekumaran

The Pinarayi Vijayan Government’s handling of the TP Senkumar issue is a classic example of how not to police the police. Senkumar retired as the police DGP on June 30 enduring the many humiliations he was subjected to. 
Undoubtedly, the reinstatement of senior police officer as the Kerala’s Director General of Police (DGP) through a historic Supreme Court judgment was a bitter pill for the LDF Government to swallow. The Government bit the bullet only because it had no other option. The apex court’s highly significant verdict came in a petition filed by Senkumar on the ground that his unceremonious removal was illegal.
Once the SC verdict came, the Government should have gracefully accepted it. But the Government did everything to delay his reinstatement in a show of petulance.
As a matter of fact, the Government had readied a ‘hot reception for Senkumar. Before he resumed his duties, the Government ordered a mass transfer of over 200 officers who were ‘loyal’ to him.
The piece de resistance was the appointment as Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) of Tomin Thachankary, a known Senkumar detractor. And one of the first acts of Thachankary was to set up a WhatsApp group at the Police headquarters excluding Senkumar!  That the objective of appointing Thachankary was to keep a watch on Senkumar was an open secret.
And, on his part, Thachankary did everything in his power to make Senkumar’s stay uncomfortable. For instance, he held a meeting of senior police officers without the knowledge of Senkumar, besides ordering that all important files should be routed through him before being sent to Senkumar! A furious Senkumar summoned Thachankary to his cabin and gave him a thorough dressing down.
Incidentally, when Senkumar met Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan after being reinstated, the CM’s advice was to ensure that no controversies erupt during the remainder of his term!  As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. The Government itself ‘violated’ the ‘ceasefire’ by indulging in more anti-Senkumar actions. It transferred a trusted Senkumar aide on the ground that he was continuing in the post for over 15 years without a formal order!
As if this was not enough, the Government cancelled a Senkumar order transferring Junior superintendent in the T-branch of the Police Department VN Beena and reinstated her in the old post. She had been transferred following numerous complaints that she was denying information sought under the Right to Information Act and hiding sensitive files.
All this acts on the part of the Government bared its refusal to imbibe the spirit of the SC order. The unfriendly acts also exposed the Government’s oft-repeated claims of having utmost respect for the judiciary as an unmitigated sham. It may not be legally so. But all these anti-Senkumar acts amounted to contempt of court in spirit.
If it really had respect for the SC order, the Government should not have appointed Thachankary at the police headquarters in the first instance. It should have allowed Senkumar to peacefully complete the remainder of his two-month term.
That the Government grievously erred in that appointment is clear from the trenchant criticism the Government is facing from the Kerala High Court. While hearing a petition on the issue, the HC pointedly asked the Government whether Thachankary was appointed to keep a watch on Senkumar. It also frowned upon the Government’s failure to mention in its affidavit the fact that the Vigilance Director had recommended action against Thachankary. A furious HC has asked the Government to file a fresh affidavit explaining why it failed to mention this fact.
The dust on the Senkumar episode will settle now that the police officer has retired, and Loknath Behera, who had to make way for Senkumar, is back in office as the DGP. But the trail of bitterness it has left in its wake will liunger on for a long time, land affect the morale of the police force.  
That being the reality, the Government has to take a few steps to ensure that Behera does not face the kind of harassment Senkumar was subjected to. The first thing it has to do is to shift Thachankar from the police headquarters as the controversial officer has a tendency to outsmart his bosses. He tried to act the ‘super DGP’ but the tough officer that he is, Senkumar showed Thachankary his place. Two parallel centres of power at the police HQ is a luxury the force cannot afford to have at a time when it is handling a number of highly sensitive cases.
Last but not the least, the Government must be more careful while implementing Supreme Court orders. Obviously, there are lessons to be learnt from the Senkumar issue. Is it too much to expect that the Vijayan Government would mend its ways? (IPA)

Sunday, 9 July, 2017