THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Despite receiving a large number of complaints, the Kerala State Police Complaints Authority (SPCA) has recommended departmental inquiries in only a handful of cases. This was revealed in a status report prepared on ‘Police Complaints Authorities in India’ by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), an international NGO.
“Of the 1,534 complaints admitted for inquiry between 2018 and 2022, the SPCA has recommended departmental action in six complaints only. Despite dealing with serious offences, including death and sexual assault in custody, it is worth noting that the SPCA has not recommended initiation of criminal proceedings in any of these cases,” the report said.
V K Mohanan is the chairperson of Kerala SPCA. There are two ex-officio members - the additional chief secretary (Home) and ADGP (HQ). The non-official members are former law secretary P K Aravintha Babu and a former DGP K P Somarajan. The Kerala SPCA was formed in 2012.
The CHRI pointed out that government officials dominating the police complaints authority is a serious violation of the Supreme Court’s directive as well as principles of independent oversight.
“Having serving police officials in an oversight body is likely to deter victims of police abuse from seeking accountability. It also serves to assure the police personnel about the protection they may expect to receive in case of misconduct. SPCA does not provide any mandatory representation for civil society organisations or make a provision for women’s representation. There is no provision of consultation with the Leader of Opposition or forming a panel to appoint the chairperson,” the report said.
The report also criticised the “state government’s resistance to appointing a chief independent investigating officer (CIO) to assist the SPCA.” Despite repeated orders from Kerala High Court, the state has not appointed a CIO yet.
The CHRI report reveals that between 2018 and 2022 complaints received by the SPCA declined by over 19 per cent. “Until 2021, the SPCA maintained a low pendency rate. Inexplicably, there was a sharp jump in 2022, when despite admitting fewer complaints for inquiry, close to half of them remained pending at the end of the year. Despite dealing with serious offences, including death and sexual assault in custody, it is worth noting that the SPCA has not recommended initiation of criminal proceedings in any of these cases.”
The report recommends that serving police officials must not be included in the authorities. “The government should appoint a chief investigating officer without any further delay. Authorities should be vested with suo motu powers. Unless the state government takes steps to establish truly independent authority, doubts will remain over the credibility and relevance of the SPCA in its existing form,” the report said.