Thiruvananthapuram: Former director of the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) Jacob Thomas has approached the High Court seeking protection against victimization and harassment under the Whistle Blowers Protection Act.
The court has directed the central and state governments to file an affidavit in response to his petition alleging that he was facing humiliation and retaliation for performing his duties.
The case will be taken up for hearing in the first week of March.
Meanwhile, the state government, which was looking to initiate stringent disciplinary actions against the suspended IPS officer, has been pushed on the back foot by his latest move.
After being castigated by the Supreme Court on the case against former DGP T P Senkumar, the LDF government appears to have decided to cautiously tread with the planned legal action against Jacob Thomas.
Jacob Thomas, who was heading the Institute of Management in Government (IMG), was suspended over his criticism of the government’s Ockhi Cycle relief efforts. He was also served a notice seeking explanation in this regard. However, he justified his earlier stand in a strongly worded reply.
Claiming that his statements were based on facts, he said that it is a citizen’s duty to speak and act against corrupt practices. The police department needs to stay unbent, he added in his reply.
He filed the petition under the Whistle Blowers Protection Act at a time when the state government was planning to initiate further action against him for the anti-administration remarks in his explanation. He has also sought a report from the Central Vigilance Commissioner whether he is entitled for protection against victimization under the Act.
Jacob Thomas writes to PM Modi
The court also asked the Center to take the necessary action on the representation submitted by him to prime minister Narenda Modi on February 27, 2017, seeking protection from the collective threat.
The petition also demanded that anti-corruption activities, promotion of good governance, and campaigns to create awareness among people against corruption should be brought under the ambit of the Whistle Blowers Protection Act.
He had written a letter to the prime minister in March 2017 seeking protection under the Act after being appointed as the WACB director. The very next month, he was forced by the state government to go on a long leave.
In 2011, the then state government had appointed an expert panel to implement the provisions of the Act at the state level. The panel had recommended measures to provide protection to whistleblowers and a special cell at the chief minister’s office for the purpose. The current LDF government had also announced annual rewards and awards to whistleblowers who expose corruption. Jacob Thomas’ petition contained copies of these orders.
In 2005, the Central Vigilance Commissioner had issued an order to provide him protection under the Act after he exposed a corruption at Supplyco while being its managing director.
The state government could either accept the explanation given by Jacob Thomas to the chief secretary on his remarks in connection with Cyclone Ockhi or conduct further inquiry. He may be given a chance to clarify his stance and a special investigating officer could be appointed to record his explanation. Based on that report, the state government could take further actions against the suspended official with the approval of the Central Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions. As per rules, a government servant could not be placed under suspension beyond six months without a valid reason.
Since some of the IAS officers who were arraigned in corruption cases during Jacob Thomas’ stint at the helm of the VACB are currently holding pivotal administrative posts, those who support him have called for strong action on his petition.
However, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s stance on the issue will be decisive. The LDF government, which projected him as an anti-corruption crusader when it came to power in May 2016, eventually fell out with him during his tenure as VACB director.
Though the government-appointed three-member panel of top bureaucrats had recommended criminal proceedings against him after it found serious lapses in his book titled 'Shravukalkkoppam Neenthumpol' (Swimming with Sharks), the government has so far not gone for any legal action.