Officially, there are more than 500 police officers serving in the State Police with criminal cases pending against them. But this figure is quite misleading as it does not reflect the real extend of rot in the force. Unofficial figures indicate that the number of personnel with criminal background could be manifold.
The ‘magic figure’ of 533 was given by then State Police Chief Jacob Punnoose in a response to a directive by the Kerala High Court, listing pending criminal cases that ranged from murder to bribery. The list featured names of top officers like Tomin J. Thachankery, Inspector General of Police, S. Sreejith, Deputy Inspector General of Police, and S. Pulikesi, who retired as the Additional Director General of Police.
The issue of bad apples in the cart of State Police came back to discussion with the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the sentence of life imprisonment awarded to R. Shaji, former Deputy Superintendent of Police, by the Kerala High Court.
Shaji was sentenced on counts of murder and destruction of evidence. He killed his driver Praveen on February 15, 2005 on suspicion that the victim had illicit relationship with his wife and then hacked the body to pieces with the help of his aides and dumped it at different spots in the Vembanad Lake.
When he was arrested, Shaji was reported to own a fleet of private buses and had his hand in many shady deals happening in and around Thoppumpady, where he was based.
More recently, Mr. Sreejith was suspended from service pending inquiry after his dialogue with controversial businessman K.A. Rauf came out, in which he volunteered to help the latter for usurping a stretch of land in Karnataka. However, the State government clarified later that there were no criminal cases pending against Mr. Sreejith and that he has only vigilance inquiry going on against him.
A former City Police Commissioner in Kochi admitted on conditions of anonymity that a senior police officer in the district owned lorries transporting sand along the Alapuzha-Chengannur circuit. Another officer, who is currently posted outside Kochi, had faced internal probe on his illicit relations with the sand mafia in town.
D.B. Binu, a lawyer and RTI activist who had filed a Right-to-Information request on the criminal cases against police officers, pointed out that the State police are yet to reveal the details of officers with criminal background.
The Intelligence wing of the police has the details on such officers but is refusing to divulge the names. The list that the police gave was about police officers involved in criminal cases. We should realize the fact that many policemen have criminal background but there would not be even a single case registered against them. Such people are the most dangerous lot, he said.
On the other hand, there is an opinion that the rot in the State Police should be treated as a reflection of the increase of criminality and decline of moral strength of the general social fabric.
“The increase in the number of criminals is witnessed not just in police, but in other professions too. What is required at this point is an overall change in the recruitment and training process for the police, which is still archaic. A proposal for proper psychological training for officials from top to bottom, which was submitted at least two years ago, is gathering dust as no one is interested in steps like these,” said K.S. David, criminologist and director of Central Institute of Behavioural Sciences.
The government is sitting on a recommendation given by a panel headed by T.P. Sen Kumar, Additional Director General of Police, Intelligence, for terminating six policemen under Section 86 of the Kerala Police Act and sending 40-odd officials found to be alcoholics for de-addiction treatment.
Corrective measures are being taken up, but unfortunately in smaller doses.