In a setback to the Kerala government, the Central Administrative Tribunal has ordered the reinstatement of Jacob Thomas, one of the top cops of the state. Thomas was suspended by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in 2017 after he slammed the government over law and order issues when the state was battling the aftereffects of Cyclone Ockhi. The officerâ€™s suspension was later extended after a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) alleged that Thomas was involved in corruption scandal when he was the director of ports department in the state.
Hearing a petition filed by Jacob Thomas himself, the tribunal stated that a top officer cannot remain suspended forever and ordered the government to reinstate him on an immediate basis. According to reports, the tribunal also accepted Thomasâ€™s claims that he was being targeted by the state government.
â€śI have been fighting against corruption for a very long time now. I have been taking action and fighting back against corruption since 2003, when I was the Joint Transport Commissioner. In 2017, following the Ockhi cyclone, I was suspended for raising a concern about fisherfolk and other affected communities not receiving timely aid. I was also suspended for the two books I had written which were published by DC and Current Booksâ€¦itâ€™s been a flood of suspensions,â€ť he told Asianet News.
Responding to the criticism of the state government that Thomas broke protocol, the senior officer said, â€śIn 2018, four senior judges of the Supreme Court had held a press conference to tell people that everything was not okay. They were giving the message that if something is not right inside, people have to be informed as they are the crux of a democracy. This is what I have also done.â€ť
During the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections, Thomas had applied for voluntary retirement in order to contest the polls. The government had, however, rejected his application. Speculations about Thomas joining the BJP also did the rounds during this time. Thomas had also openly criticised the state government in its handling of the Sabarimala agitation.
In response to the tribunalâ€™s order, the state government may move the Kerala High Court to reverse it, say reports.
Regarding his application for voluntary retirement, Thomas said that the central government was yet to decide on the issue and that he hoped it would consider the tribunal order while deciding on the application.