On March 17, 2021, a Single Judge Bench of Justice Raja Vijayaraghavan V of the Kerala High Court instructed the Kerala Police to publish on its official site the details of police officers who have been convicted in a convincing, highly relevant, penetrating, and compelling judgement titled The State Public Information Officer and Deputy Superintendent of Police v The State Information Commission.
It was clearly, correctly, and forcefully stated that the identities of police personnel who have been found guilty or dismissed from duty owing to allegations of corruption or violations of human rights cannot be kept hidden.
Furthermore, at a time when top Maharashtra law enforcement officers and some top ministers are being probed for allegedly accumulating a massive Rs 100 crore in extortion money from different sources in just one month, as revealed by none other than former Mumbai Police Chief Parambir Singh, who has also filed a petition the Mumbai High Court for an unbiased enquiry,
This important issue, which directly affects the country’s image, can no longer be overlooked. This means that police activities should be transparent rather than opaque, with the left hand unaware of what the right hand is up to!
AUTHORITY TOLD TO PUBLISH NAMES OF SUCH OFFICERS
This bold, concise, blunt, balanced, and smart remark was made in response to a petition presented by the State Public Information Officer of the Crime Records Bureau (Deputy Superintendent of Police, Thiruvananthapuram). The State Information Commission (SIC) ordered police to publish the names of corrupt officers convicted in court or fired for corruption and human rights violations, which the Information Officer disputed in the High Court. In addition, the SIC had given the information authorities explicit permission to publish the names of officers charged with corruption or human rights abuses on the police website following an investigation.
The court had received a petition from the ‘State Public Information Officer of the Crime Records Bureau.’ The State Information Commission (SIC) ordered police to publish the names of corrupt officers convicted in court or fired for corruption and human rights violations, which the Information Officer disputed in the High Court.
In response to Radhakrishnan R.’s request for the following information, the State Information Commission issued an order in 2010:
- Police personnel in the State Police Department who are suspected of corruption, the specific allegation levelled against them, and the position they held.
- State Police Department officers suspected of perpetrating crimes against women, including their names, ranks, positions held, and complaints filed against them.
The State Information Commission reminded the State Police that it is their job as a public authority to keep its documents correctly categorised and indexed in order to facilitate access to information under the Right to Information Act of 2005. (RTI). Within 30 days of the order’s date in January 2012, the local police were also required to guarantee that all documents were digitized and linked through a system to enable access to such papers. The State Public Information Officer advised Radhakrishnan R. that the identities and other data of police personnel suspected of corruption or violations of human rights could not be released since the data is protected under RTI Act sections 8(1)(j) and 8(1)(a) (h). He lodged an application with the State Information Commission in view of the above. The State Information Commissioner decided that the information sought by the party respondent could not be refused under Section 24(4) of the RTI Act. The Commission ruled that the applicant’s request for information should be granted after reviewing the papers. The information was to be separated and published on the Kerala Police website, as required by Section 4 of the RTI Act, so that any citizen may view it. In the current petition, the Officer of the Crime Records Bureau contested this order.
According to Justice Raja Vijayaraghavan’s bench, the information authority cannot keep the identities of officers who have been found guilty or dismissed from duty on charges of corruption or human rights violations hidden from the public. The police department’s information authority, on the other hand, will not be required to provide the names of officers who have been charged with crimes as a result of the investigation but have yet to be convicted guilty in a court of law.
The judgement underscored the importance of the information authority remembering that the exclusions cannot be read too narrowly when dealing with information that does not fall under Section 4(1)(b) and (c) of the Act. Rather, the Court decided that the clause should be interpreted practically to preserve the public interest.
This is a tremendous step forward, and all states should follow suit so that the highest standards are established in the public domain, even among police officers. There can’t possible be an excuse for not doing so!
Article By:Bhakti Khara