Another political slugfest in offing as BJP may pitch in for suspended senior police officer.
New Delhi: In yet another embarrassment to the Left Front government in Kerala, the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) early this week set aside the suspension of former Vigilance Director, Jacob Thomas and directed the state government to reinstate the IPS officer in service forthwith. Thomas, one-time favourite of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, had fallen out with the state CPM leadership once he initiated vigilance probe against senior leader and then Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan, who had to resign following allegations of nepotism in appointments in his department. The Tribunal passed its directives on an application filed by Thomas challenging his suspension from service. Thomas’ stand-off with the government started after he publicly admonished the administration over corruption in relief work among the affected during the Ockhi cyclone that lashed coastal Kerala and parts of Tamil Nadu in 2017. Then he came out with his controversial autobiography in Malayalam, Sravukalkoppam Neenthumbol (Swimming with Sharks), which was published without seeking permission from his superiors. The state government slapped a criminal case against Thomas for alleged violation of Service Rules and Official Secrets Act. In the 240-page book, the senior-most IPS officer in the state had attacked many leaders and contained details of how the investigation of some controversial corruption cases was sabotaged. According to the FIR, Jacob Thomas had in his book allegedly revealed official secrets that had come to his knowledge in his capacity as the Vigilance Director, thus violating the Police Forces (Restriction of Rights) Act, 1966. Finally, the government suspended Thomas on charges of corruption in the procurement of cutter suction dredger when he was the Director of Ports (DoP) during 2010-11. He was suspended following a detailed vigilance inquiry into the allegation in December 2018. The Tribunal, while ordering the re-instatement, observed that continuance of the suspension period was not necessary, if the intention of the government was solely to get to the truth of the allegations. “Mechanically ordering continuance of the suspension period brings no credit to a model employee,” the Tribunal said.
It is now clear that the government on its part will move the Supreme Court against the Tribunal verdict. By taking back Thomas, the government will be admitting that its decision was wrong. The Pinarayi Vijayan government is unlikely to follow that and instead would be moving in the direction of its previous open fight with another IPS officer, T.P. Senkumar, immediately after it was voted to power in 2016. The LDF government had removed Senkumar as the DGP two days after it came to power. Senkumar, who was appointed by the previous Congress-led United Front government, was “not acceptable” to the CPM as he had probed various cases involving party men, especially the sensational T.P. Chandrashekharan murder case that rocked the state. Many CPM leaders from its stronghold Kannur were arrested and put behind bars for their hand in the murder. The Chief Minister at that time had justified Senkumar’s removal, saying he was not fit for the job and instead brought in the present DGP Loknath Behera, under whose tenure the state has witnessed a sharp rise in political murders. Unlike in the Sabarimala case, the Vijayan government then was in no hurry to implement the Supreme Court order reinstating Senkumar. Instead, it went for a review petition which too was dismissed by the top court. A red-faced government was forced to re-appoint Senkumar, who had only a month to retire. The LF government seems to have not learnt any lessons from this previous experience and is bound to move the SC in Jacob Thomas’ case also. Unfortunately, it is the public which bears the brunt of the legal expenses, which the government seems to be least bothered about.
There is another reason for the CPM to go after Jacob Thomas. He, as is the case with Senkumar, is gravitating towards the Sangh Parivar. Recently Thomas attended an RSS Guru Dakshina programme in Kochi and was seen chanting the organisational prayer with his hand on his chest. Thomas, who chaired the meeting, praised RSS’ “humanitarian work” in the country and said this “self-less work of RSS” had attracted him to the organisation. He also criticised the LF government’s animosity towards the RSS and questioned what was wrong if the police had passed on vital information to its cadre during the Sabarimala agitation, as was charged by the Chief Minister recently. “This information must be passed on to every citizen. Aren’t RSS activists Indians?”, Thomas had apparently asked the gathering. Before the Lok Sabha elections, Senkumar’s name too had done the rounds as possible BJP candidate. It has been reported that certain RSS leaders from the state are pushing Thomas’ case with the BJP central leadership. It is said that the Centre will have a sympathetic view regarding Thomas’ continuance in service. If reinstated, Thomas in all probability will stake claim to the post of DGP considering his seniority. This will bring him in direct confrontation with the state government once again. Whatever be the future course of action, the Left Front government will try its best to stall the return of Jacob Thomas by all means. At least it will not concede the DGP post to him. With the state BJP all set to back Thomas, the fight is sure to turn political.