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Former Kerala minister Saseendran cleared in ‘honey trap’ phone call case

Cchief minister Saseendran Wednesday said that a high-level committee has been constituted to study its recommendations and take action while releasing the main suggestions of the Justice PS Antony Commission report.

india Updated: Nov 22, 2017 14:57 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala minister,AK Saseendran,Nationalist Congress Party
Woman journalists protest against Mangalam TV in Thiruvananthapuram over the telecast of a sexually explicit conversation allegedly between former Kerala transport minister AK Saseendran and a woman. (PTI File Photo)

Former Kerala transport minister AK Saseendran has been absolved of all major charges by the judicial commission that probed allegations of sexual harassment against him, paving the way for his re-induction in the state cabinet.

The chief minister on Wednesday said that a high-level committee has been constituted to study its recommendations and take action while releasing the main suggestions of the Justice PS Antony Commission report.

He said Saseendran has the right to rejoin the ministry but added that a decision will have to be taken by his party and the ruling coalition Left Democratic Front (LDF).

The commission, which was appointed by the state government in March this year, submitted its 405-page report on Tuesday.

Saseendran, a Nationalist Congress Party leader, was forced to resign in March this year after a newly-launched Malayalam television channel, Mangalam, released an audio clip in which he was purportedly heard talking to a woman in a sexually explicit tone.

The commission concluded that the news channel trapped the minister to increase its viewership ratings and that it was an unhealthy practice. It also advised the state government to move the Union information and broadcasting ministry for the cancellation of broadcasting licence of the channel.

It also sought the prosecution of channel’s chief executive officer and journalists involved in the case.

The commission recommended a regulatory mechanism for the electronic media and a law to check the intrusion into the privacy of a citizen. It said the media should represent and reflect society’s interest rather than commercial interests.

It has also asked the state government to send the report to the Union government and Press Council and stressed the need for regular refresher classes for journalists.

Saseendran welcomed the report, saying the truth will prevail always.

However, the opposition has criticised the plan to re-induct Saseendran.

“Moral responsibility still lies with him. The entire state had heard his talk and he can’t come out of the mess so easily,” Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said.

After his exit, another NCP legislator Thomas Chandy was sworn in as the minister but was forced to step down last week after his name figured in a land-grab case.

It later came to light that the woman heard in the clip was a reporter of the channel. The alleged victim failed to depose before the commission during the hearings and the channel did not produce the unedited version of the alleged telephonic conversation.

She filed a complaint in a court but withdrew it after an out of court settlement.

First Published: Nov 22, 2017 14:57 IST