State Government cannot take any decision on transfer of State Police Chief on the basis of what it believes to be public dissatisfaction

Supreme Court: Dealing with the Section 97 of the Kerala Police Act, 2011 which mandates that the State Government shall ensure a minimum tenure of two years for the State Police Chief and that he could be transferred out before completion of the tenure if the State Government is prima facie satisfied that it is necessary to do so, on certain grounds specified in sub-section (2) of Section 97 of the Act, the Court said that the removal or displacement of any senior level officer from a tenure appointment must be for compelling reasons and must be justified by the concerned authority, if called upon to do so, on material that can be objectively tested. The bench said that this is what the rule of law expects and this is what Section 97 of the Act expects – the law must be faithfully implemented in a purposive manner.

The appellant in the present case was transferred before the competition of his tenure as an outcome of the aftermath of the Puttingal Temple Tragedy in which 100 persons were killed and around 400 were injured after the unauthorised fireworks by the temple authorities resulted in the stock of fireworks catching a spark and another case of brutal murder of a young Dalit girl Jisha within the jurisdiction of the Kuruppumpady police station, in the year 2016. State Government had submitted that it was prima facie satisfied that the conduct of the appellant post the two incidents did not inspire any confidence in his leadership and that translated into serious public dissatisfaction on the efficiency and the role of the police.

Noticing the fact that the Additional Chief Secretary recommended action against three specific police officers and placed the file before the Chief Minister and that the appellant has been accused of failure to take action against these errant police officers and unjustifiably apportioning a part of the blame on the district administration, the Court held that if the appellant failed to take any action against the errant police officers, the entire official machinery starting from the Chief Minister down to the Chief Secretary and the Additional Chief Secretary are equally to blame. The Court said that while it is true that a major part of the blame must rest on the police force at the ground level, the district administration perhaps cannot be completely absolved of its responsibility in the enormous tragedy that took place,

The Bench of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ, hence held that Section 97(2)(e) of the Act must be read and understood in the context of the other clauses of that Section which relate to verifiable facts and events. Clause (e) is not a blanket clause that permits the State Government to take any decision on the basis of what it believes to be public dissatisfaction. Otherwise, the State Government can misuse it and justify an adverse action on the ground of prima facie satisfaction outside the ambit of judicial review. [Dr. T.P. Senkumar IPS v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 463, decided on 24.04.2017]

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