Kerala police on Friday booked the CEO of a Malayalam news channel and eight others for the controversy over AK Saseendran’s alleged obscene phone call with a woman which led to him resigning as state transport minister last week.
The development comes a day after the channel admitted to setting up the call as a honey trap for the former state transport minister, and apologised for the same. Saseendran quit his post on Monday after the audio clip of a lewd conversation that allegedly transpired between him and a woman was aired by the channel. Earlier on Friday, the Left Democratic Front government announced Thomas Chandy as Saseendran’s successor.
Initially, the Mangalam New channel claimed that Saseendran had sought sexual favours from a housewife when she approached him for help. It also claimed that the audio clip was handed over to the channel by the woman as she wanted to expose the minister.
However, channel CEO A Ajith Kumar later clarified that “a woman scribe had voluntarily came forward” to carry out the sting operation against the minister. He claimed that she was part of an eight-member investigation team constituted by the channel. The CEO was forced to apologise after many writers, intellectuals and journalists criticised the way the channel carried out the sting operation. Two women journalists from the channel also tendered their resignation in protest.
The channel had started its broadcast five days ago and the sting was its first breaking story. When the audio clip was aired, the minister resigned the same evening. In his apology, Kumar pleaded that the fledgling media venture should not be targeted due to the lapse.
Police registered a case against nine people, including the CEO, under non-bailable sections, which include criminal conspiracy, misuse of IT act and other relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) said it will move the National Broadcasting Commission against the channel. The state government already announced a judicial probe into the matter.