The Kerala High Court on Friday asked the State Police Chief (SPC) to clarify whether any order had been issued appointing the new Crime Branch chief as the supervising authority of the special investigation team (SIT) which is currently probing the 2017 actor sexual assault case.
A Division Bench of Justice Devan Ramachandran and Justice Sophy Thomas passed the order in a petition filed by film director Baiju Kottarakara challenging the transfer of ADGP S. Sreejith from the post of Crime Branch chief and the supervising officer of the sexual assault case.
According to the petitioner, the government had issued an order appointing Sreejith as the supervising officer of the SIT although his two-year tenure would expire only in June 2024.
After the transfer, Sreejith has been posted as Transport Commissioner and Shaik Darvesh Saheb is the new Crime Branch chief. According to the petitioner, the State's action of removing the ADGP from the post before completing two years' service was illegal and arbitrary.
Appearing through Advocate B. Mohan Lal, the petitioner submitted that the government had taken off the post of the Crime Branch chief from him with a malafide intention of saving the actual perpetrators of the crime and thereby sought to declare that Sreejith was entitled to continue the supervision of the case.
On the other hand, Senior Government Pleader Bijoy Chandran submitted that the order reconstituting the SIT in the case had only mentioned the name of Sreejith in his capacity as the head of the Crime Branch and as such, when he was transferred to another department, the incumbent officer would assume the charge of supervision of the team.
He also submitted that he will verify if any order has been issued by the State Police Chief in supersession of this order appointing him as the supervising officer of the SIT.
The Bench observed that Section 97 of the Kerala Police Act did not say that the officer who headed an SIT cannot be altered or anything about the posting of a Crime Branch chief.
The provision only prescribed a minimum tenure of two years for police officers posted as SPC, Inspector General in charge of ranges, Superintendent of Police or Commissioners in charge of police districts and station house officers.
Anyway, since the matter was considered at the first instance for admission, the Bench took the view that official respondents require some time to respond to the allegations.
As such, the matter was adjourned to be taken up on 19 May by which time the State Police Chief has been directed to respond through proper pleadings.
Case Title: Kerala State Board of International Human Rights Council v. State of Kerala