Thursday, June 01, 2017

Kerala police officer’s tell-all memoir takes on politicians, kicking up a storm about service rules Thiruvanantpuram: Thursday, June 1, 2017.
The launch of a tell-all memoir by a Kerala senior police official that takes on top politicians and bureaucrats has caused a storm in the state and invited accusations that the Indian Police Service officer violated the service rules governing government servants and the Official Secrets Act.
In Sravukalkkoppam Neenthumpol (Swimming with Sharks), Director General of Police of Kerala Jacob Thomas details controversial events over the course of his 30-year career, including a spat with former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. The book includes accounts of attempts to influence bribery allegations against former minister K Babu of Congress and KM Mani of Kerala Congress (Mani). Also included is an account of the Communist Party of India leader and Kerala’s former Food and Civil Supplies Minister C Divakaran’s alleged thwarting of Thomas’ anti-corruption drive at the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation. It also describes the influence of sand mining mafia in the government and provides a behind-the-scenes account of the sensational arrest of Peoples Democratic Party leader Abdul Nasser Madani from Ernakulam in 1998 in a terror case (in which he was later acquitted).
Angered by the allegations, Congress leaders asked whether Thomas had got permission from the government before publishing the book and have sought action against the officer for violating service rules by making public sensitive information.
In light of the controversy, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who was to release the book at Thiruvananthapuram Press Club on May 22, decided to skip the event. He also directed the State Chief Secretary to file a report on the book, which found that Thomas had violated the All India Service Conduct Rules, 1968 as he had not submitted the book for examination prior to publication. A team of bureaucrats who examined the book reportedly cited 14 violations of service rules, though the contents of the report have not been made public.'Sravukalkkoppam Neenthumpol', the autobiography by Director General of Police Jacob Thomas displayed at a book store in Kozhikode. Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen
What the rules say

According to Section 6 (2) of the All India Service Rules, 1968, officers do not need prior permission from the government to write articles or publish books on literary, artistic or scientific subjects. However, the rules state that a serving officer cannot publish any material that is critical of the government. Moreover, Section 3 of the Police-Forces (Restriction of Rights) Act, 1966 requires an officer to take permission of the government before publishing material that is not of purely literary, artistic or scientific character.
The All India Service Rules also state that “greater care/discretion should be taken about the provisions of the Official Secrets Act, 1923, while giving permission to serving/retired officers to publish books/articles.” It says action can be taken under the Official Secrets Act or Pension rules if any material is published that “revealed sensitive information on certain operation pertaining to the security of the State/having a bearing on the sovereignty and integrity of India.”
‘Personal account’
Thomas, however, maintained that the book is his life story, so it is a personal account. “It is a literary work,” he told“I haven’t disclosed official secrets nor used even a single classified document for the book. All the information provided in it could be obtained through a Right to Information application.”
He also said that he had not been asked by any government official to submit the manuscript of the book for review.
If the Left Democratic Front government does take any action against the police officer, it will be an unusual move, as consecutive state governments have not targetted IAS officers who published accounts of their tenure in the past.
Malayattoor Ramakrishnan’s memoir Ente IAS Dinangal on his days as an IAS officer is considered among the best service stories in Malayalam. MKK Nair’s autobiography Aarodum Paribhavamillathe and Alphonse Kannanthanam’s Making a Difference are other well received accounts.
Prominent RTI activist and Kerala High Court lawyer DB Binu, said the threat to slap service rule violation charges against Thomas is anti-democratic. “Aggrieved parties could seek legal remedies if they think that the book contains derogatory or baseless content. But threatening the author with actions is highly condemnable,” he said.A reader flips through the pages of 'Sravukalkkoppam Neenthumpol', the autobiography of Director General of Police Jacob Thomas at a book store in Kozhikode. Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen
Highs and lows
Thomas, a 1985 IPS batch officer, is no stranger to controversy and has had a career peppered with highs and lows. Known as an anti-corruption crusader who took on top politicians and bureaucrats, particularly under the previous Congress-led United Democratic Front government, Thomas has been transferred 31 times in 30 years.
He began his service as Assistant Superintendent of Police in Thodupuzha and went on to become Director General of Police. His last assignment was to head Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau before he was asked to go on leave by the chief minister on March 31.
He has also led the Lokayukta, Human Rights Commission, State Women’s Commission and worked with different ministries and departments.
He knew that his book would generate a controversy because of its attack on Chandy. “Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy began to speak against me after I took the builder mafia to task for not ensuring fire and safety measures in high rises under construction,” Thomas said. “It happened when I was the chief of Fire and Rescue Services. Chandy branded me as an anti-people officer. I was removed from the post immediately. Now I realised that the tag was given to eject me from the post.”
But this, he said, wasn’t the most challenging time he faced in his career. “If there was a tough period, it has to be when I worked as the managing director of the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation,” he said. “Corruption was rampant in the organisation. When I began to fight against it, all evil forces joined hands against me. I had to be very careful to ward off their threat. It drained a lot of energy.”
Now 57, Thomas hinted that he was contemplating taking voluntary retirement from the service, after which he plans to take up farming. “I had thought of quitting civil service in 1999, 2008 and 2015. The thought is still there in the corner of my mind,”he said.