Kerala Director General of Police Jacob Thomas, who is under suspension for the past 18 months for alleged violation of service rules, is now facing a criminal case and termination threat for writing his autobiography. The complaint was filed by the General Administration Department on the direction Chief Secretary Tom Jose.
The polices crime branch wing registered a criminal case against Thomas for penning his bare-all autobiography Sravukalkkoppam Neenthumbol (Swimming With Sharks) without seeking prior permission from the higher-ups. In the 240-page book, the 1985-batch IPS officer had attacked many leaders, including former chief minister Oommen Chandy, and mentioned how the investigation of some controversial corruption cases were sabotaged.
The book details his life from childhood in a hilly hamlet of central Kerala to his experiences as an all-India service officer. According to the FIR, Thomas had allegedly revealed in the book official secrets, which had come to his knowledge in his capacity as the vigilance director, thus violating the Police-Forces (Restriction of Rights) Act, 1966.
If found guilty, Thomas will have to face imprisonment for up to two years and a fine. A departmental action by the state government, based on these charges, may result in the DGPs termination. Thomas, however, said no prior permission was needed before publishing the book as it came under the category of literary works. He also claimed there were no new revelations in his book, but information that was already in public domain.
The officer had triggered a row by initiating a probe against high-profile persons, including ministers, politicians and bureaucrats, during his over one-year tenure as chief of the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Department. He was later transferred as the director of the Institute of Management in Governance before being placed under suspension in December 2017 for his remarks against the Pinarayi Vijayan governments handling of the Ockhi cyclone.
“It may be for the first time in the country that an IPS officer is being placed under suspension continuously for such a long period,” Thomas told PTI. “The criminal case registered against me for writing a book is part of the continuing retaliatory measures taken by the LDF government.” It is proof of utmost “revenge and retaliation” by the government towards an officer who is not in their good books, the officer said, alleging the entire government machinery was being misused to suppress free speech.
When contacted, Additional Chief Secretary (Health and Family Affairs) Rajeev Sadanandan, who conducted a departmental inquiry against Thomas on various charges, said he had submitted two reports to the government. “I have submitted two inquiry reports — one regarding his autobiography and the second on his controversial speech, in which he had made anti-government remarks. But, I cannot reveal the details of the report or my recommendations,” Sadanandan told PTI.
Thomas claimed that the criminal case registered under the Police Force (Restriction of Right) Act was not even applicable to an all-India service official and only applicable to those recruited under the state police. Criminal proceedings were initiated weeks after a vigilance case was slapped against Thomas for the alleged financial irregularities as the director of ports in the procurement of a dredger during the period 2009-14, a charge rejected earlier by the Vigilance Department and Vigilance court after an inquiry.
Though Thomas, who has service till June next year, sought to take voluntary retirement in March to contest the Lok Sabha election as a nominee of Twenty20, a non-profit organisation, the state government did not relieve him. “I have been denied job and salary for the last 18 months. I am not even allowed to go out of service,” he said. “They are slapping case after case against me to keep me away from the service till I retire.”
Thomas said he was mulling several options to fight the alleged injustice meted out to him by the state government. He has already approached the Central Administrative Tribunal against the back-to-back suspensions and filed a case in the Kerala High Court seeking to quash the vigilance case. Meanwhile, CPI(M) legislator M Swaraj told PTI that certain rules were to be followed by the serving government officials while in service.
BJP veteran Kummanam Rajasekharan, however, said the act of registering criminal case against Thomas for penning an autobiography was “fascism” and a clear case of “victimisation”. “If the officer is found to have violated any service rule, the government can take departmental action. But here, a criminal case is registered against the officer for writing a book, that too by the Left government which pretends to be advocate of free speech and freedom of expression,” Rajasekharan told PTI.
Echoing similar sentiments, DB Binu, president of the Right to Information Act, Kerala Federation, said if such a case was registered anywhere else in the country, Left leaders would have termed it “intolerance” and “infringement on the freedom of expression.” Thomas was the first IPS officer in the state to get sanctuary under the Whistleblowers Protection Act from the union government in 2005 after he brought to light corruption in the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation while serving as its managing director.