Kerala minister K T Jaleel not fit to continue in power, says Lokayukta
The Kerala Lokayukta on Friday found Kerala Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel guilty of abuse of power, favouritism and violation of oath of office and ruled that he has no right to continue in the council of ministers.
The verdict against the controversial minister, who was also questioned several times in connection with import of dry dates and holy books by central agencies, came on a complaint regarding the appointment of his relative KT Adeeb as the general manager of the Kerala State Minorities Development Finance Corporation Limited in 2018. There was a big uproar when Adeeb was appointed allegedly flouting all norms and later he was forced to resign.
Later a lawyer V K Mohammad Shafi had field a compliant with the Lokayukta which on Friday agreed with the contention of the petitioner. “The action of the respondent (Jaleel) was actuated in a discharge of his function as minister by personal interest to favour his second cousin. It amounted to favouritism and nepotism and also lack of integrity in his capacity as the minister,” said the verdict of the Lokayukta presided over by Justices Cyriac Joseph and Harun-al-Rasheed. It also said he diluted qualifications and norms for the post just to favour his kin.
The verdict also found that the minister’s earlier assertion that Adeeb was selected after many candidates appeared for the interview was found unsuitable. “In spite of objections raised from many quarters the minister directed to issue an order and in the process other eligible candidates were denied the opportunity,” it said. Muslim League leader PK Firoze was the first to raise the allegation. After his appointment snowballed into a major row Adeeb quit his post and rejoined his parent organisation, South Indian Bank.
The opposition Congress and BJP have sought his immediate resignation. “He has no right to continue in power. The CM should drop him,” said opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala. But the minister maintained that the case was rejected by the high court and he will take a decision after consulting with legal experts. “Former Governor Justice Sathasivam and High Court had rejected the petition two years ago. I will take a decision after consulting my lawyers,” he posted on social media.
After the gold smuggling case involving the UAE consulate came to light last year Jaleel was questioned by the customs and the Enforcement Directorate on several occasions. Trouble began for him after phone call records of Swapna Suresh, main accused in the gold smuggling case, were leaked to the media. The minister’s phone number figured prominently in the list. Soon after the list came out, the minister said he called Suresh as a consular employee in connection with Ramadan kits offered by the UAE consulate in the state capital.
But the minister’s clarification invited more trouble for him as he was not supposed to accept any funds or freebies without the consent of the ministry of external affairs and experts said it was a clear violation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). During the gold smuggling investigation, the customs also found that a heavy consignment came in last March in 31 bags, weighing more than 4,000 kg and they were taken to Malappuram. The minister later admitted that he took these packets to his constituency but said they were religious books.
During investigation, the customs also found that between 2017 and 2018 about 17,000 kg dry dates was imported by the consular office. Considered close to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan the party had defended the controversial minister who was the minority mascot of the party on several instances. Hailing from the Muslim -majority Malappuram district, he had earlier created enough headaches for the government in alleged mark donation move to a failed student and other cases but his proximity to the CM saved him from trouble.