It looks like serious pressure has to be exerted for the Kerala government to act against guilty and overbearing police officials.
It was only when protests nearly choked Aluva that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan intervened and suspended Aluva station house officer and circle inspector Sudheer whose allegedly oppressive behaviour seems to have pushed a law student Mofiya Parveen to suicide.
Now it has come to light that even the High Court strictures were not enough for the government to initiate disciplinary action against police officials in another case. These policemen were accused of handcuffing a dalit man on the handrail of the Thenmala Police Station in Kollam district. The crime: The man asked for the copy of the complaint he had filed before the Police Complaints Authority.
In fact, the deputy superintendent of police, Kollam Rural, had filed a report saying that "at least two police officers had treated the petitioner with unimaginable barbarity - handcuffing him to the handrail of the police station and registering multiple cases against him." On October 5, the High Court observed with shock that no enquiry had been initiated against the two officials and they were still in service.
The Court then directed the State Police Chief (SPC) to file an affidavit explaining the action taken against the two police officers of Thenmala station.
Today, when the case was once again taken up, the High Court was told that the officers were suspended. Justice Devan Ramachandran was least impressed and asked the government pleader whether any criminal action had been initiated. To this, the government pleader, E C Bineesh, said no.
The single judge bench found this utterly disappointing. "Isn't handcuffing a man in a police station a criminal offence? Shouldn't a criminal case be registered against him," Justice Devan Ramachandran asked. "Why do you always restrict punishments to police officers with disciplinary action? What is the hesitation to take action against police officers? Police have to be protectors, they cannot be persecutors," he said.
The Justice also felt that swift and exemplary action could change the psychology of the police. "If the state takes swift and strict action against one police officer, just one is enough, the entire police force would change its attitude. Till then, this will continue; people will be chained, killed and even forced to commit suicide."
In the handcuffing case, the police officials had taken their vindictive action to absurd levels. After handcuffing the man, they also charged him with obstructing the police from discharging their duties. The High Court found this ridiculous. It orally observed that the odds of a common man standing in the way of police work inside a police station was highly improbable.
The Court then made an observation that included in its sweep what happened inside the Aluva Police Station where Mofiya Parveen was made to feel like the accused. "A police station is a public office, not a terror field. Any man, woman or child should feel free and confident to walk into a police station at any time," Justice Devan Ramachandran remarked.
Referring to the accumulating complaints of police high-handedness, the Justice said, almost in resignation: "God help our state."
The Justice also asked the government pleader to submit why the concerned officers were not slapped with criminal charges.