The frequent transfers of Jacob Thomas, IPS, the current Managing Director of Kerala Police Housing and Construction Corporation (KPHCC), had sparked a heated political controversy recently.
Thomas, who holds the rank of Director General of Police (DGP), was the head of Kerala Fire and Rescue services before being posted as the head of KPHCC. The corporation was earlier headed by an officer of ADGP rank. Therefore the latest transfer was seen as a demotion for Thomas. He had been transferred from the Vigilance and Anti-corruption Bureau to the Kerala Fire and Rescue Forces in June this year and then to KPHCC after just four months in service. Thomas had expressed his unhappiness over the frequent transfers openly opposing the moves. The Chief Secretary on October 21 had issued a show-cause notice to Thomas seeking an explanation for his comments related to his latest transfer stating that it brought embarrassment to the government. Thomas had replied to the notice saying that his reaction did not amount to any breach of discipline. A second notice was issued after his public remarks on the Vigilance court verdict ordering a reopening of the Bar bribery case. Thomas had replied demanding the evidences based on which he had been served the notices. The Chief Secretary on the other hand said that there was no need to provide any evidences to Thomas.
During his stint with the Vigilance Bureau, Thomas took a tough stand in the infamous Bar scam case involving Finance Minister Mani saying that Vigilance court verdict was the ‘triumph of truth’. The Vigilance SP R Sukesan’s report on the case was against Mani. Just before the final report in the case was to be submitted, Thomas was transferred to the Fire and Rescue Services on the pretext that he had been promoted to the DGP rank. The government defended the transfer as a natural change that comes with a promotion saying that there ‘was nothing beyond that’. But his strict methods of action annoyed the powerful real estate lobby which led to another transfer. It was while he was the Managing Director of KPHCC, that he hailed the court verdict against Mani. Following this Chief Secretary and Police Chief TP Senkumar on one side and Jacob on the other had engaged in open scuffle. The tit-for-tat reactions were never before heard in the top police hierarchy.
Those who oppose Jacob Thomas said that he violated the rules of conduct while in service. They were of the opinion that it was unbecoming of any government official to openly criticize the government policies and only led to the embarrassment of the state government. But Thomas defended himself questioning how his remarks amounted to a breach of discipline. Just wondering how uttering Satyameva Jayate, which is the country’s national motto, as a response to the court verdict becomes a breach of disciplinary rules. Whatever the case, the incidents signaled a growth of anarchy in higher government services. Opposition leader V S Achuthanandhan had intervened in the issue citing the Supreme Court verdict in the Vijay Shankar Pandey versus Union of India case of November 22, 2014. The freedom of expression is one of the fundamental rights of every citizen enshrined in the Constitution and therefore the government officials also enjoyed the freedom of expression. He pointed out that criticising ‘misrule’ was not indiscipline and reacting to corruption didn’t amount to breach of rules. Achuthanandan also said that the government threatening the officials who exposed corruption, with disciplinary action amounted to intimidation. There might be breach of rules in the DGP’s actions and the technical debates and discourses related to the matter would resurface. But the government moves evidently creates an impression among the people that it is adopting retribution against an able official. The Chief Minister and his party members should be bearing in mind that the existence of the people’s government is beyond all technicalities.