K.T. Jaleel, Minister for Higher Education and Minority Welfare in Kerala who has been facing allegations of favouritism and nepotism regarding a government appointment for over two and a half years, submitted his resignation from the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government today.
The Kerala Lok Ayukta had found Jaleel guilty a few days ago of “abuse of power, favouritism, nepotism and lack of integrity in his capacity as a Minister” and held that he violated his oath of office by giving a government appointment to his second cousin by tweaking the norms.
Jaleel’s resignation came even as a case filed by him challenging the legality of the Lok Ayukta report was being heard by the Kerala High Court on April 13. The High Court, however, refused to order a stay on the implementation of the Lok Ayukta report and had reserved the case for issuing orders.
In a long Facebook post, Jaleel criticised “right-wing media” and opposition parties and confirmed that he had submitted his resignation to the Chief Minister around noon on April 13. Jaleel wrote: “Those who had been thirsty for my blood will find temporary relief. I inform happily that I have sent my resignation letter to the Chief Minister. I am a public servant who has been subject to an unjustified media hunt during the last two years.”
His statement perhaps indicated that the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) had ended its political support to the Minister on an issue that had plunged the LDF government in controversies during the last several months of its term in office and all through the Assembly election campaign.
Jaleel’s resignation has been accepted by the Governor, Arif Mohammed Khan.
The Lok Ayukta order was issued on a complaint filed by V.K. Muhammed Shafi, a Muslim Youth League (the Muslim League’s youth wing) leader, against the appointment of the Minister’s cousin K.T. Adeeb as General Manager in the Kerala State Minorities Development Finance Corporation Limited.
The order was passed by a bench comprising Justices Cyriac Joseph (a former judge of the Supreme Court) and (Upa Lok Ayukta) Harun-Ul-Rashid (a former judge of the Kerala High Court). It found that Jaleel tweaked the qualifications required for the appointment to include “B.Tech with post graduate diploma in business administration” to favour his relative, who would have been otherwise ineligible to apply for the post.
The Lok Ayukta held that it amounted to an abuse of the Minister’s position and ordered that the report be submitted before the Chief Minister (the competent authority) for taking necessary action as per Section 14 of the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act.
The Lok Ayukta also held that Jaleel violated the oath of office he had taken as Minister and it made a declaration under Section 12(3) of the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act that Jaleel should not continue as a member of the Council of Ministers (a declaration that had to be accepted by the Chief Minister under Section 14 of the Act).
Jaleel is the fifth Minister to resign from the LDF Ministry headed by Pinarayi Vijayan. The allegation against him was first raised by P.K. Firoz, Kerala State secretary, Muslim Youth League.
Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said Jaleel had quit “finally” since he had no other alternative in the context of the public pressure for his resignation and that it was “not based on ethics or morality”. He said: “If he had any morality he would not have approached the High Court against the Lok Ayukta order. The CPI(M) also does not have any right to talk about morality. The party which supported Jaleel for over three days was forced finally to seek his resignation. The Chief Minister, who had all along been supporting Jaleel for all his misdeeds, too, was eventually forced to seek his resignation.”
K. Surendrean, Bharatiya Janata Party State president, demanded the resignation of Pinarayi Vijayan too and alleged that Jaleel had tweaked his qualifications with the knowledge of the Chief Minister. “The LDF government cannot escape just because the Chief Minister’s conscience-keeper, Jaleel, has resigned. The Chief Minister and Jaleel had an equal role in this,” he said.
A. Vijayaraghavan, CPI(M) acting State secretary, however, welcomed Jaleel’s decision and said Jaleel had resigned “upholding the best traditions of the LDF”.
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