The Kerala High Court on Friday sought a response from the state government after a petitioner alleged that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan used public funds to book air tickets for his trips to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the United States of America (US) that were ‘personal’ in nature.
The bench of Justice P Somarajan posted the case for hearing on April 30 and asked state government officials for a response to the petition. The petitioner, D Francis who claimed to be a member of an anti-corruption organisation, alleged that the chief minister spent Rs 93,295 for air-travel to the UAE in December 2016 and Rs 3,82,807 in connection with his US trip in July 2017 out of the government treasury even though his trips were ‘personal.’
“It is not known whether the initial payments related to the above said journeys were made by himself or somebody else on behalf of him. Even though the petitioner’s advocate repeatedly made requests, the Chief Minister’s Office has not disclosed the source for such spending,” the petition alleged.
“Being a public servant, he is duty bound to disclose the source for all such expenses especially while he is holding the public office. Not only that, by abusing his official position as chief minister, he made pecuniary benefit by way of reimbursements after making his above said personal visits without any public interest,” it added.
According to local media reports, the chief minister’s UAE trip in 2016 was his first official journey after assuming office during which he visited a labour camp in Al Quoz and inaugurated an Indian school in Sharjah. Similarly, in July 2018, Vijayan along with Health Minister KK Shylaja had travelled to the US for a slew of programmes including a reception at the Institute of Human Virology in Baltimore and a meeting in Philadelphia by the Federation of Kerala Associations in North America.
The writ petition asked for a vigilance investigation into finding the source of the funds spent.