Legal rebuff to LDF govt

P. Sreekumaran

April has been a cruel month both literally and politically for Kerala. The people of the state are feeling the heat with a blazing summer sun glaring down on them. But the soaring mercury outside is nothing compared to the political heat wave hammering the Left Democratic Front (LDF) Government.
The Supreme Court order reinstating senior IPS officer T P Senkumar as the state police chief is the latest setback the Government has suffered in the month of April, completing a hattrick of political rebuffs.
First to rock the government has been the coming to the fore of sharp CPM-CPI differences over the anti-encroachment drive at Munnar in Idukki district. Close on its heels came the storm created by lewd remarks by Power Minister M M Mani against Pombilai Orumai, a collective of women estate workers in Munnar. The judicial snub from the apex court over the TP Senkumar issue completes the hattrick of setbacks.
In its landmark judgment, the Supreme Court has ruled that Senkumar had been treated ‘unfairly and arbitrarily’. Top police officers, the court ruled, can be removed only on the basis of verifiable facts and not merely ‘on perception’.
Senkumar had been removed as State DGP just three days after the Pinarayi Vijayan Government assumed power in the state.  The ostensible reason for unceremoniously ousting Senkumar was that he had dismally failed in his duty in the aftermath of the Puttingal temple tragedy which claimed many lives and in probing the Jisha murder case.
In its order, the apex court also made a significant observation that a chief secretary can be shifted to another post if he loses the confidence of the Chief Minister in the larger interest of administration.  But the same principle cannot be applied in the case of a state police chief. ‘There is a difference in their roles; they cannot be equated,” ruled the SC.
A jubilant Senkumar said in his reaction that the momentous SC order was a great morale-booster for all police officers who are punished despite doing their duties sincerely. It would also ensure a minimum tenure of two years for honest officers, affording them legal protection.  Senkumar also noted that at least three files the government had submitted to the SC were ‘fudged’.
The perception that gained ground after Senkumar was removed was that the police officer was being punished for the manner in which the accused in the TP Chandrashekharan and Kathiroor Manoj cases were brought to book.
Expectedly, the judgment has sent the Government into a tizzy. Although Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan are on record that the order will be implemented, there is confusion over the future course of action. “The Government will do whatever it can do legally” after receiving the full copy of the order, Vijayan said. The only option before him is to file a review petition before the same judges. But legal experts say that will be of no help to the government.
The third setback in a row has understandably cast a pall of gloom in the CPM camp in particular and in LDF circles in general.  The cadres of LDF constituents are worried over the proclivity of the government to lurch from crisis to crisis with unfailing regularity. It is agreed by one and all that something will have to done - and done fast – to reverse the government’s tendency to court controversies and focus on governance. The slew of setbacks and controversies has taken the shine off the government’s widely-welcomed initiatives to tackle sensitive issues and burning problems faced by the people.
The Vijayan Government will have to resort to damage control without any loss of time as the Opposition United Democratic Front(UDF) and the BJP have decided to up the ante. The UDF has in fact decided to launch an agitation to pressure the government into sacking Power Minister M M Mani, whose foul language and shockingly tasteless remarks against women have drawn flak from even top CPM leaders.
The state party can take a cue from the statement of CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury who has distanced the party from Mani’s crude and lewd remarks against women.  The party can redeem itself only if it shows the foul-mouthed minister the door. Mere censure or warning won’t do. Will the CPM rise to the occasion? Kerala is waiting with bated breath. (IPA)

Tuesday, 2 May, 2017