Setback To Kerala Govt as Central Tribunal Orders Reinstatement of Suspended DGP Jacob Thomas
According to the CAT, the circumstances of the case lead to the conclusion that continuance of the suspension period is not necessary, if the intention of the state government is solely to get at the truth of the allegations made against Jacob Thomas.
File photo of suspended Kerala IPS Officer Jacob Thomas.
Kochi: In a setback to the CPI(M)-led LDF government in Kerala, the Central Administrative Tribunal on Monday ordered the reinstatement of DGP Jacob Thomas, who was suspended in December 2017 over his remarks against the government on handling of Ockhi cyclone situation.
"It is a trite law that suspension cannot take the form of punishment," the Ernakulam bench of CAT said in its order. "We direct that the applicant be reinstated forthwith in service and duly assigned to an appropriate post of equivalent rank," it said.
"The purpose clearly is to ensure that the employee is not in a position to influence the inquiry once he resumes his duties. But the line between a justified suspension from service and a suspension instituted as a measure of harassment is indeed a thin one," the bench said. Thomas was placed under suspension on December 19, 2017 for his remarks against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's handling of the Ockhi cyclone.
Observing that Thomas had been out of service since December 19, 2017 and has only a year or so till he retires, the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) said, "The circumstances of the case lead us to the conclusion that continuance of the suspension period is not necessary, if the intention of the state government is solely to get at the truth of the allegations made against him."
The Tribunal also dismissed the state government's argument that the officer will influence the probe if he is reinstated in service.
Noting that all documents related to the case are already in the hands of Finance Department and the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau, it said, "Hence, we see little chance of the officer thwarting the probe, if he is reinstated in service."
"If it is the case that the officer is not found fit to work in the police force or its associated branches, the government should consider accommodating him with any other post of equivalent rank. Mechanically ordering continuance of the suspension period brings no credit to a model employer," it said.
Reacting to the judgement, Thomas said "justice is done" in the case. He said it is a message for the officials fighting against corruption in the government.
"If they come out openly against corruption, they will definitely get justice," the former DGP said. Asked whether the state government's stand against him will diminish his chance to come back to service, Thomas told a news channel, "Kerala is part of India. There is a strong administrator in India. So, there will be a decision."
He said the central government has not taken a decision on his application for taking voluntary retirement from the service.
Thomas is also facing a case for penning his autobiography 'Sravukalkkoppam Neenthumbol' (Swimming With Sharks) without seeking permission from the higher-ups. The complaint was filed by the General Administration Department on the direction of Chief Secretary Tom Jose.
The police's Crime Branch wing is probing the case. In the 240-page book, the 1985-batch IPS officer had attacked many leaders, including former chief minister Oommen Chandy, and alleged how the investigation of some controversial corruption cases were sabotaged.
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