It is an irony that the Supreme Court had to step in to set things right in a state where the ruling class rode to power on the promise to set everything right. With the apex court dismissing a clarification petition on Friday, Marxist Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan was forced to sign the order reinstating T.P. Senkumar as DGP 12 days after the court first directed the Left Democratic Front government to do so. More than a moral victory for Senkumar, his reinstatement is the one major setback that the LDF has to face after coming to power just 11 months back. It is bound to have its repercussions for a CM, who is seen by some as arrogant and autocratic. Shunting Senkumar to the post of MD of the Police Housing Corporation was the first official act of the Pinarayi Vijayan government after taking charge of the state on 25 May 2016. Though the government gave the reason for his removal as shoddy handling of two important cases, a temple fireworks tragedy in which more than 100 people died and the brutal rape and murder of a law student, days before the crucial Assembly elections, general public knew that it was a clear case of vendetta against an upright IPS officer. The previous United Democratic Front government of Oommen Chandy had given Senkumar additional charge of state prisons after it came to light that those accused in the murder of Marxist rebel T.P. Chandrashekharan were having a whale of a time in prison. Senkumar clamped on them removing their mobile phones and FB facilities. Then came the murders of a Muslim League and an RSS worker in north Kerala allegedly by CPM cadre and masterminded by the powerful Kannur party district secretary P. Jayarajan, against whom Senkumar dared to take firm actions. This was more than what the CPM could digest. This is the real reason for the appointment of a pliable Loknath Behra as DGP in place of Senkumar as soon as the party came to power.

Immediately after his removal, Senkumar had moved the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) seeking justice. Once his plea was turned down, Senkumar went to the Kerala High Court which upheld the CAT verdict. When he moved the Supreme Court, CM Pinarayi stated in the Assembly that “he (Senkumar) was removed not for Jisha murder case, but for his incompetence.” Pinarayi later told the agitated Congress members that Senkuamar had “gone out of your hands and you know here he is now”, hinting that the former DGP has joined the BJP camp. 

Once the government refused to budge despite the top court’s order, the CM came under severe criticism from all corners, including the CPI. With the government not taking a decision on the SC order, Senkumar had filed a contempt petition accusing it of “wilful, deliberate disobedience”. It was then that a defiant Pinarayi, surrounded by a coterie of advisers, decided to file a clarification petition with the SC. State politicians and lawyers united to condemn such a move. The government contention was that the previous UDF government had appointed Senkumar on 22 May 2015 as “Director General of Police and Head of Police Force” and as per Section 14 of the Kerala Police Act, there is no such post. The correct post is “DGP and State Police Chief”, the government said. On Friday, SC dismissed the clarification petition and imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on the state government for waste of time. The court has also sought the response of the state chief secretary Nalini Netto, who is said to be delaying the reinstatement.

The opposition Congress and the BJP have called for the resignation of the Chief Minister. NDA’s Kerala vice chairman and Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar said the verdict was yet another “stinging slap” in the face of the state government. The CPI leader Panniyan Ravindran blamed the CM’s legal advisers for the bungling. Yet it is very unlikely that these will have any impact on CMVijayan who is still said to be in the mould of party secretary. The government has transferred over 100 Dy SPs soon after the verdict and has hurriedly posted Tomin Thachankary, perhaps the most corrupt IPS officer in the state, as ADGP at the state police headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram. This is being seen as an attempt to keep a watch on Senkumar. Nothing may happen to Pinarayi Vijayan and his Kannur lobby, but the future looks bleak for Kerala.

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