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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Explained: The Kerala Lokayukta report that found minister K T Jaleel unfit to continue in office

K T Jaleel had already indicated that he would take legal remedies after consulting experts. As the government is in the last days, Jaleel can cling on to the post.

Written by Shaju Philip , Edited by Explained Desk | Kochi |
April 11, 2021 9:48:59 am
K T Jaleel (Facebook/KT Jaleel)

The Kerala Lokayukta on Friday said that the Minister for Higher Education and Welfare of Minorities K T Jaleel should step down for abusing the power of his office. The verdict was passed after a complaint was made against Jaleel that he had illegally appointed his second cousin as general manager with the Kerala State Minorities Finance Development Corporation.

The action of the minister was actuated in the discharge of his function as a minister by his interest to favour his second cousin. It amounted to favouritism and nepotism.

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What are the findings of the Lokayukta?

As per the findings of the Lokayukta, Jaleel had changed the qualification for the post of general manager in the corporation to make his second cousin eligible for the post. In July, 2016, two months after Jaleel assumed office as a minister in the LDF government, he wrote a letter to the concerned authority to change the qualification for the post of general manager. Eligibility criteria was overhauled to make the post suitable for his second cousin K T Adeeb, who had been an employee with a private bank.

Should Jaleel quit?

As per the Kerala Lokayukta Act, a public servant has to vacate office if a Lokayukta investigation finds him or her guilty. The Lokayukta or the Upa Lokayukta, shall make a declaration to that effect in the report and the competent authority, the Governor, the Government of Kerala or the Chief Minister, should accept the declaration of the anti-corruption body. In Jaleel’s case, the Lokayukta has made a declaration and the competent authority to take action against him is the chief minister. As per the act, the minister has to quit his office.

What are the options before Jaleel?

He can challenge the order in the court. Jaleel had already indicated that he would take legal remedies after consulting experts. As the government is in the last days, Jaleel can cling on to the post. But, if the LDF retains power and Jaleel himself emerges a winner, the scandal could eclipse his chances of getting a cabinet berth. The CPI (M) has rejected the Opposition demand for Jaleel’s resignation.

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Precedents of resignations

Several ministers in various states had quit office following adverse remarks or recommendations from Lokayukta. In 2011, then Uttar Pradesh minister Awadhpal Singh Yadav had stepped down after the UP Lokayukta recommended his removal and lodging of corruption cases against him. In 2006, then Kerala health minister and senior Congress leader K K Ramachandran had quit in the wake of allegation that he had threatened some officials who had deposed before the Lokayukta in connection with a case.

Who is Jaleel?

His name had figured in the scandal related to smuggling of gold through diplomatic cargo to the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram. He had been questioned by the Customs and the NIA several times. Customs had found lapses on part of Jaleel in the illegal import of dates through diplomatic channels to Kerala. The case is still pending with the Customs.

Jaleel started as a firebrand SIMI leader and later became an office-bearer of the Youth League, the IUML youth wing. But strained relations with the IUML leadership, particularly P K Kunhalikutty, led to his ouster in 2005. The CPM fielded Jaleel as a party-backed candidate against Kunhalikutty in 2006. A good orator, Jaleel could whip up community sentiments on anti-US, anti-Israel campaigns, the then planks of the Left. He won in 2006, and again in 2011 and 2016. For the CPM, which has been trying to make inroads into the Muslim vote bank, Jaleel is important in pulling anti-IUML votes and votes of fringe Muslim outfits opposed to the UDF. He has had close links with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan

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