Kerala higher education minister K T Jaleel said he was hounded by certain people and the media for the last two years. (HT Photo)
Kerala higher education minister K T Jaleel said he was hounded by certain people and the media for the last two years. (HT Photo)

Kerala minister KT Jaleel quits four days after Lokayutka’s ‘guilty’ verdict

The case dates back to 2018, when Jaleel appointed his second cousin K T Adeeb as the general manager of the Kerala State Minorities Development Finance Corporation Limited, flouting all norms.
PUBLISHED ON APR 13, 2021 03:16 PM IST

Kerala higher education minister KT Jaleel (53) resigned from the Pinarayi Vijayan cabinet on Monday, four days after the Lokayukta found him guilty of abuse of power and favouritism, ruling he had no moral right to continue as a minister.

“For the last two years I have been hounded by certain people and a section of the media. They will be happy (that) I have tendered my resignation. But I will bounce back. They can kill me but they can’t defeat me,” the minister posted a message on Facebook, announcing his decision on Tuesday. The term of the present Kerala government will end soon after the results of the assembly elections held on April 6 are announced on May 2. Jaleel contested the polls from Thavanoor seat in Malappuram this time.

His resignation came while the Kerala high court heard his plea to stay the anti-corruption body’s verdict. He had filed the plea despite legal experts’ advice to quit and not challenge the Lokayukta order, people close to the former minister said on condition of anonymity.

The case dates back to 2018, when Jaleel appointed his second cousin K T Adeeb as the general manager of the Kerala State Minorities Development Finance Corporation Limited, flouting all norms. Later, his kin was forced to resign following a big uproar against the appointment. V K Mohammad Shafi, a supporter of the Muslim League, soon filed a complaint with the Lokayukta over the issue, resulting in the verdict against Jaleel on Friday.

“The action of the respondent (Jaleel) was actuated in discharge of his function as a 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. The body also said the minister diluted qualifications and norms for appointment to the post just to favour his kin.

The ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist), popularly known as the CPM said Jaleel resigned to uphold high morality. “We are unlike Congress leaders who always cling on to power despite court verdicts,” said party’s acting secretary A Vijayaraghavan.

The opposition Congress responded by saying Jaleel lost the right to cite morality. “The party disowned him when all doors were shut before him. It is better late than never,” said opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala. The BJP has also welcomed his resignation.

Jaleel was also questioned several times recently by the customs and the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the case of gold and dollar smuggling through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate in the state capital.

The minister’s phone number figured prominently in the leaked phone call records of the main accused in the gold smuggling case, Swapna Suresh. Jaleel claimed he called Suresh, a consular employee, in connection with Ramadan kits offered by the UAE consulate last year. His clarification caused him more trouble as he was not supposed to accept any funds or freebies without the consent of the ministry of external affairs. Experts said his conduct was a clear violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). The customs also linked him to a heavy consignment, in 31 bags, weighing more than 4,000 kg that arrived from UAE on March 4, 2020. Jaleel claimed the packets contained religious books, which he took to his constituency of Malappuram. He was also linked to the import of about 17,000 kg dry dates between 2017 and 2018.

From the Muslim-majority district of Malappuram, Jaleel was considered close to CM Vijayan, who earlier protected him in a controversy over mark donation to a failed student during his tenure as the higher education minister in 2018 .

A good orator, Jaleel started his political career with the banned Islamic Students Movement of India (SIMI) before moving to the Muslim Youth League, youth outfit of the Muslim League. He later fell out with his mentor P K Kunhalikutty, former minister, and defeated him as an Independent with the support of the LDF. He was backed by the CPI(M) and returned the favour by attracting many disgruntled Muslim leaders to the party fold.

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