Seeking legal loopholes

Updated: Jan 22 2007, 05:30am hrs
Controversy dogged the state government last month after a state police IG was relieved of his duties through a fax message, within minutes of conducting a raid on an influential colleague's family business. Another round of political intervention later, the officer had to be reinstated.

So, the focus was on the Kerala administrations misdemeanours just when it was desperately trying to rustle up the support of other states to seek a review of the apex court directive on police reforms.

The incident somewhat dilutes the state governments argument against the apex courts directive to insulate police postings from locally influential people. "There is need for further reforms," affirms Ashok Dhamija, former IPS officer, in his blog. Most IPS officers, on condition of anonymity, say that postings and transfers need more autonomy.

However, the Kerala government's bid drew partial success. All states, except six, sought a review of the Supreme Court directive. The Supreme Court turned down the plea and did not extend the deadline, either. Kerala's effort to form a common platform of the three Left-run states failed as well.

The focus was on the Kerala administration’s misdemeanours just when it was desperately trying to rustle up the support of other states to seek a review of the Supreme Court directive on police reforms

For Kerala, the brief to form a security commission and hand over the prerogative of appointing the state police chief have not been happy tidings. Law and order, after all, has been a state subject. Forced to comply with the court's directive on DGP appointments within four weeks, the Kerala government is trying to work out how to legally express its reservations.

Sources told FE that clauses defining norms for appointment and transfer of senior police officers are being hurriedly tailored into a Police Bill, which is likely to be introduced in the assembly session next month. Alternatively, an ordinance to this effect cannot be ruled out. "We support police reforms in our own way," says Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, Kerala home minister. A commission set up by the state government had made some recommendations. Some of these tally with the apex courts directives. For instance, the court judgement calls for bifurcation of law and order and crime within the police machinery. This, the state government agrees with.

In three citiesThiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode -- each police station is to get two sub-inspectors: one for crime and the other for law and order," the minister said. Secondly, an armed reserve police battalion is to be set up in North Keralawhich is suspected to be a terrorist hotbedexpected to cost Rs 5 crore.

"This force will be dedicated to law and order," said Balakrishnan. Funds and a manpower crunch are the official reasons that the state has cited for delaying the reforms.