Kerala DGP Behera faces contempt of court for denying SI promotion

DGP Loknath Behera
DGP Loknath Behera

In what is seen as a major blow to the LDF government, the Kerala Administrative Tribunal has asked DGP Loknath Behera to promote sub-inspector Jeyasanil R as circle inspector with immediate effect or face contempt of court proceedings.

The case revolves around the oft-repeated charge that the CPM-led government had consistently pushed its men to crucial positions in the police at the cost of neutral officers.

It was in 2017 that Jeyasanil, an SI in the District Crime Branch, Thiruvananthapuram, had approached the KAT saying he was wrongfully denied promotion.

In two orders dated September 6, 2018 and March 8, 2019, the KAT had brushed aside the government's objections and ruled that Jeyasanil was eligible to be promoted as CI and wanted him included in the list of SIs picked for promotion. Till now, Kerala government has not complied with the order.

Finding that the government was deaf to his pleas, Jeyasanil filed a contempt petition with the KAT. When the tribunal heard the petition on January 10, the government pleader said the government intended to move the Supreme Court against the KAT order asking Jeyasanil be promoted as CI.

The tribunal, however, has put its foot down. “The learned government pleader, under instructions, submits that the government proposes to move the Supreme Court against the order in contempt. It is, however, noted that the order was first issued on September 6, 2018, and nearly one-and-a-half years have elapsed since the issuance of the order and yet the same remains to be complied with,” the latest order said.

It further said that since the tribunal's order has neither been stayed nor modified, the respondent (DGP Loknath Behera) was bound to comply with it. Earlier, the High Court, too, had backed the KAT order.

Jeyasanil's charge was that the government had promoted its “favourites” as CIs violating established seniority norms. “Many officers with half my experience had been promoted as CI,” said Jeyasanil, who has experience of over 14 years. He said scores of his colleagues, with no political backing, had suffered his fate.

The decision to deny Jeyasanil promotion was arbitrary and no reason was given till January 2019, which was when the government issued an ordinance annulling section 101(6) of the Kerala Police Act.

Section 101 of the Act deals with departmental inquiry proceedings, and clause 6 of the section had listed a set of minor penalties that should not be considered a bar on promotion. It included fine, extra duty, extra physical training, training to improve work and conduct, warning and censure.

Jeyasanil was once warned for mistaking one confiscated car for another, a minor penalty that fell under Section 101(6). This section had insulated him from the whims of his superiors who did not want him promoted. Now that clause 6 was taken out through an ordinance, the government argued before the KAT that refusing promotion for Jeyasanil was legal.

After considering the Kerala Police (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019, published in the gazette on January 8, 2019, the KAT's March order said: “The ordinance will show that it is only prospective in nature and the deletion of section 101 (6) is not having a retrospective effect.”

Meaning, Jeyasanil had the protection of Clause 6 when he was denied promotion. Therefore, the tribunal said the Departmental Promotion Committee could not have relied upon the ordinance while picking candidates for promotion.

In its earlier order, the tribunal was even more categorical. It declared that the penalties imposed on Jeyasanil would not be a bar on the inclusion of the applicant in the select list for promotion to the post of CI. It even ordered the inclusion of Jeyasanil in the list for promotion within two months.

The tribunal had also reminded the government that any decision that was contrary to the order would “amount to disobedience of the directions issued by this tribunal”.