“Former ASP Roshan Kokil he may well invoke the public interest to reveal whatever he knows”

Qs & As

Public Interest and Forced Retirement

* ‘The device used to terminate the services of Permanent Secretaries is a formidable weapon no government would want to do away with’

In the wake of the mediatised cases of police brutality, the retirement of ASP Roshan Kokil, on grounds of “public interest” has raised some issues regarding whether there is any bellwether legal standard for such action by the CP and the Disciplined Forces Service Commission. Lex shares his views and clarifies the related questions on this topic.

* It’s rare for civil servants to be retired from the service on the ground of public interest. It’s usually on medical grounds, on account of criminal offences or in the interest of the public service that the services of civil servants are terminated. Opinions differ about what constitutes public interest or not. What to your mind constitutes the public interest in matters of governance and the civil service?

Any civil servant must function having in mind the conditions of his appointment and the public he serves. If a point has been reached where he cannot live up to this standard, he either leaves or is made to leave.

Anything can fall under the public interest as the term is not defined in law. The public interest in the civil service would entail serving. It requires high standards of honesty, integrity, loyalty, impartiality, and objectivity. The public interest has to do with the welfare or well-being of the general public and society and the department where the civil servant functions.

A civil servant should put the interests of the public and the public service ahead of his own personal interests and help maintain the public’s trust and confidence in the public service.

* The Disciplined Forces Service Commission Regulations, 1997, refers to the public interest in cases where the service of one member of the disciplined forces should be terminated “on grounds which cannot be suitably dealt with under any other provisions of these regulations”. On the other hand, the Public Service Commission Regulations do not make mention of “public interest” but instead speaks of the “interest of the public service” when it comes to retire a civil servant. Why could have been the rationale behind that distinction?

Under both Regulations power is given to the Commissions to deal with defaulting officers. Where an offence has been committed, the matter is investigated and a report is submitted to the DPP. Where no prosecution has been advised, the DPP may advise that disciplinary action be taken against the officer.

At times a report or complaints against a police officer do not disclose an offence or grounds for disciplinary action. Then the public interest retirement comes into play. It is a blanket power given to the Commissioner of Police and the Disciplined Forces Service Commission to rid the force of an element who is not an asset to the force.

* The amendment brought to the Constitution in 1982 to retire a number of top civil servants, perceived by the then MMM-PSM government to be too close to the Labour Party and PMSD, has not been struck off to date. There could be good reasons other than political ones why successive governments have not done so. What do you think?

This is a powerful weapon to enable a government to get rid of civil servants who are considered to have been too close to the outgoing regime with the result that they might not show the same loyalty to the new incoming government.

No government would want to do away with such a formidable weapon. When the MMM-PSM government came up with that amendment, they probably thought they would rule forever little realising that it could be used against their own nominees.

* The device used to terminate the services of the former Permanent Secretaries does not seem to have been challenged in Court. Does it mean there might be no solid ground to do that?

That was introduced through a constitutional amendment, and it would have been difficult to undo that amendment. Anyway, on what grounds could that amendment have been challenged? What constitutional rights would a civil servant invoke when his service is being terminated? Let’s wait for a test case to know more.

* Assistant Superintendent of Police Roshan Kokil has been retired in the “public interest”. This after the Disciplined Forces Services Commission upheld the decision of the Commissioner of Police to retire him following the conclusions of an internal investigation in connection with acts of police brutality by a few officers of the CID of Terre-Rouge. All the facts of the case are not known, except for Mr Kokil’s earlier defence that “ce n’est pas légal pour la police d’enquêter sur la police” (the police cannot inquire on the police). What’s your take on that?

 What the officer may probably have in mind is the power granted to the Independent Police Complaints Commission that is mandated to investigate into any complaint made by any person or on his behalf against any act, conduct or omission of a police officer in the discharge of his duties.

 * Mr Kokil has allegedly stated to the press in the wake of his forced retirement that he would reveal the inside story relating to the pen drive containing images of police brutality by the CID officers as well as some other investigations relating to a few high-profile cases including the Wakashio shipwreck. Wouldn’t he fall foul of the Official Secrets Act, were he to come out publicly with his denunciations, if any?

Not necessarily. It must be established that what he would reveal would cause any prejudice to the interest of Mauritius. What the officer knows or possibly knows and might reveal would probably have to do with the reasons why a proper investigation was not carried out promptly in the case of torture of suspects by the CID officers. But all this is already in the public domain.

What else would he reveal? That he had to comply with the orders or instructions of his hierarchy? Or that he was instructed by his hierarchy on how to proceed? Or that the police cannot usurp the powers of the Police Complaints Commission?

At the end of the day, however, he may well invoke the public interest to reveal whatever he knows. Read More… Become a Subscriber

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 28 October 2022

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