In a huge setback to the Pinarayi Vijayan government, the Supreme Court on Monday directed Kerala to reinstate T P Senkumar as the state police chief.
Senkumar was removed as Director General of Police on the day that Vijayan assumed office on May 25, 2016.
Reinstating Senkumar, the bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta in their judgment said that the Senkumar was dealt with "unfairly and arbitrarily" and it was post the Puttingal Temple tragedy and the Jisha murder and not the two tragedies themselves that led to it.
Speaking for the bench, Justice Lokur said, "We are also a little disturbed with the view expressed … (by the Kerala government) … that the appointment of the appellant (Senkumar) was irregular if not illegal. If that is so and the State Government of Kerala is bent upon making irregular or illegal appointments to sensitive posts, then no one can help God's own country."
The court said that it also a "little disturbed" by resurrection of both cases as soon as the present government in Kerala assumed office.
"Suddenly, these issues resurfaced as soon as the present government assumed office. This might perhaps be a coincidence but it might also be politically motivated, as suggested by …. appellant."
Brushing aside the state government's submission that its subjective satisfaction in removing Senkumar could not be gone into, the court said: "The subjective satisfaction of the state government must be based on some credible material, which this Court might not analyze but which can certainly be looked into.
"Having looked into the record placed before us we find that there is no material adverse to the interests of the appellant except an expression of opinion and views formed, as far as he is concerned, as late as on 26th May, 2016."
"This make-believe prima facie satisfaction by itself cannot take out judicial review of administrative action in the garb of subjective satisfaction of the State Government," it added.
The DGP has won a moral victory as he is set to retire on June 30 and now it has to be seen if the Vijayan government reinstates him quickly or delays it.
In removing Senkumar, the Left government had said this was because he did not do a clean job in the Puttingal Temple cracker blast and in the Jisha murder cases.
Not one to be put down easily, Senkumar approached the Kerala High Court, but failed to get a favourable verdict.
He then approached the apex court.
Expressing his happiness, Senkumar, presently the Director of the state-owned Institute of Management in Government, told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram that justice has prevailed and this is a huge boost for people who do their job with utmost commitment.
"I take this opportunity to thank my advocates, the media and all those who stood by me in the pursuit of my fight for justice. This verdict will now become good for others also," said a beaming Senkumar.
Incidentally in the floor of the assembly, Vijayan had come down heavily on Senkumar and informed the house that he is not an officer who merits to head the state police force, when the Congress-led-opposition had raised the issue in the assembly in 2016.
"Now I will wait for the state government to make the next move and also I am waiting for the papers from the Supreme Court," said Senkumar as he was asked when he would take over as the state police chief.
Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy under whom Senkumar served told reporters that this was a huge morale booster for the officer and the verdict now proves that the cases that he probed were investigated in the best possible manner.
Vijayan's office told the media a decision will be taken on what needs to be done after all the papers are received from the Supreme Court.