Kerala Church Dispute Case: Police Bound To Enforce Court Orders, Says Kerala HC [Read Judgment]
“Lawful order passed by a competent court, whether it be by a court of lowest jurisdiction or the highest court in the land, the police is bound to enforce it in accordance with law.“
While considering a petition related to church case involving Jacobite and Malankara Orthodox factions, the Kerala High Court has observed that no discretion is vested in any of officers of the Police department, however high he may be, to decide as to which court order shall be enforced and which shall not be.
The application filed by Fr. Thomas Paul Ramban, a priest belonging to Orthodox faction, seeking enforcement of an order of temporary injunction against other priests of rival Jacobite faction by providing police protection to him, was allowed by the trial court. He had sought for the help of the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Muvattupuzha, for implementing the order of injunction in this matter.
Aggrieved by the ‘inaction’ from the part of the police, the priest again approached the trial court. Taking note of it, the trial judge in strong words criticized the attitude of the police and held that the defendants are bound to obey the orders of the court and since they contumaciously defied the prohibitory orders, it has to be enforced by rendering police protection. One of the defendants had assailed this order of the trial court before the high court.
“I find no illegality or impropriety in the order passed by the court below directing the police to render sufficient help to the plaintiff. In fact, in the well written order the trial court has considered the aspects properly. Illegality and impropriety is entirely on the part of the police in refusing to render necessary help,” Justice A Hariprasad said.
The court also addressed the concern raised by the plaintiff that the Police department is selective in enforcing the orders passed by courts and that they adopt different postures and stances in implementing the court orders.
The judge observed that no discretion is vested in any of officers of Police department, however, high he may be, to decide as to which court order shall be enforced and which shall not be.
“A lawful order passed by a competent court, whether it be by a court of lowest jurisdiction or the highest court in the land, the police is bound to enforce it in accordance with law. Police has no right or authority to sit in appeal on the orders passed by the courts and examine its correctness. It can be decided only by higher courts in the hierarchy. State administration also has a non-negotiable constitutional responsibility to maintain majesty of the rule of law. The police department, being a limb of the State administration, is also duty bound to enforce the rule of law. The police officers concerned by citing some irrelevant provisions from the Kerala Police Act, 2011 cannot extricate themselves from the duty and responsibility of enforcing the court's order. Legal rights of citizens cannot be decided merely by looking into the Kerala Police Act, 2011. Apart from the Kerala Police Act, there are other central statutes like Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, etc. whereunder the police is obliged to act under such situations,” the court added, while it dismissed the petition.
Earlier, while considering yet another batch of petitions seeking police assistance in implementing the Supreme Court judgment in the church case involving Jacobite and Malankara Orthodox factions, a division bench comprising of Justices P R Ramachandra Menon and Devan Ramachandran had observed that it had the prima facie suspicion that “Government appears to be implementing directions of Courts selectively, to suiting their interests”.
The said bench had later recused from hearing after an application was moved seeking the recusal of Justice Devan Ramachandran on the ground that he had appeared as counsel for one of the parties involved in the case in earlier proceedings before the high court.