The Kerala High Court has found that there has been dereliction of duty on the part of the Police personnel who were deployed on duty near the Sabarimala Temple, at Nilakkal, during the 2018 protests after the Judgment of the Supreme Court pertaining to the entry of women of all ages to the Temple. The Court has found that many Police personnel did not wear name plates required for the purpose of identification, in violation of the existing law.

The Division Bench of Justice Anil K Narendran and Justice PG Ajithkumar ordered, "It is established that the provisions of Section 41B(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the direction contained in circular No.3 of 2011 issued by the Director General of Police were violated by many police personnel who were on duty at Nilakkal during the relevant period. Hence, there shall be a direction to the State Police Chief not to repeat such dereliction in duty in future".

The Court was seized of two writ petitions against harassment of Sabarimala Temple devotees by the Police and also seeking action against the Police personnel who had damaged the vehicles of devotees who had visited the Temple at the time when there were protests pursuant to the 2018 Judgment of the Apex Court in the matter of Indian Young Lawyers Association v. State of Kerala and others. While acting against protesters near the Temple, the Police broke many motorbikes of devotees parked in the area and the video of the Police action was then widely reported in the media. It was also alleged that a Police officer stole the helmet of one of the devotees, which was caught on video.

Advocates TM Raman Kartha and Arjun Venugopal appeared for the petitioners in two separate petitions while State Attorney N. Manoj Kumar appeared for the State.

The Court had earlier passed an interim order in the matter directing the State Police Chief to conduct a preliminary enquiry and file a report before the Court "along with a list of the civil police officers who took part in the said operation". By another interim order, the Court had also noted that many of the persons in uniform were not seen wearing their nameplates and had said, "It is to be ascertained whether the persons who were not wearing the name plates were “trainees” or such others identified by the higher officials to conceal the identity and avoid the consequences".

With respect to damaging private vehicles of devotees by Police during the clash with protesters, the Court noted that "the excesses on the part of eight police personnel were found in the enquiry and all of them were identified". The Court also noted in the order that since five years have passed since the protests and Police action, there is now no basis for apprehension about illegal arrests of devotees or their implication in false cases.

"During the course of arguments, the learned State Attorney submitted that departmental actions were taken against all such erring police personnel. The learned State Attorney made available for our perusal the orders of the respective appointing authorities and also the appellate authorities in regard to the punishment imposed on the incumbents. After due disciplinary enquiry, punishments were imposed on the incumbents. In some cases the appellate authorities interfered and reduced or altered the nature of punishment", the Court noted in the judgment with respect to Police officers who had damaged private vehicles.

The Court also said that based on the materials produced in the writ petitions, it does not find it necessary to issue direction to initiate prosecution against the Police personnel against whom disciplinary actions were taken. The Court refused to go into the sufficiency of the penalty imposed on the Police personnel in the writ petitions which were PILs.

The Court disposed of the petition by directing compliance of the law with respect to wearing of nameplates by Police personnel who are on duty. The Court ordered, "These Writ Petitions are accordingly disposed of directing the State Police Chief, Kerala to ensure that the provisions under Section 41B(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the directions contained in Circular No.3 of 2011 are scrupulously complied with by every police personnel and any violation in that regard is dealt with appropriately".

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