Higher education minister K T Jaleel was questioned by Enforcement Directorate on Friday morning in connection with his alleged role in the import of religious books through diplomatic channel and his possible links with the accused in the gold smuggling case.
The minister was found to have indulged in gross violation of the protocol relating to interactions with foreign missions.
He was allowed to go after questioning, which lasted about three hours, but ED sources indicated that he might be called again for further interrogations.
Enforcement Directorate and Customs have also been looking into the possible use of the diplomatic channel for importing unauthorised goods along with the religious books. An obvious angle has been smuggling of gold in the packages containing the books.
K T Jaleel was found to have been constantly in touch with gold smuggling kingpin Swapna Suresh, which he sought to explain away as in connection with the distribution of food packets on behalf of the UAE consulate during the month of Ramadan.
This is a huge embarrassment for the government of Pinarayi Vijayan, who has been consistently defending K T Jaleel, saying that he had interacted with the consulate at the behest of the consul general, rather than on his own behalf.
The opposition parties, including the BJP and Congress, have been demanding the resignation of K T Jaleel, who violated the Constitution by establishing contact with the foreign mission. But the minister has been claiming that he was only doing a pious act by helping the consulate to distribute food kits and the religious books and that he was ready to be hanged if that was a crime.
Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala pointed out that it was the first time that a minister has had to appear for interrogation before an investigating agency and he had no right to continue in office. But he said anything is possible under the corrupt Pinarayi Vijayan government.
The opposition parties, including the Indian Union Muslim League, which the minister once belonged to before he landed up in the CPI-M, had decried Jaleel’s use of religion to defend his conduct.
State BJP chief K Surendran demanded the immediate resignation of Jaleel in view of his questioning by the Enforcement Directorate, saying that it is an insult to the people of Kerala that a minister has been summoned by the central agency for questioning.
He said that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan did not have the moral courage to ask Jaleel to quit, or remove him from the ministry because he was himself in the wrong in several instances. Vijayan has been facing heat over the alleged involvement of his office in the sensational gold smuggling case.
It was revealed that the higher education minister had used an office under his ministry to transport packets containing the religious books. Only a couple of packets were opened in the presence of officials, which has led to allegations that the other packets may have contained contraband goods, including gold.
Meanwhile, the Narcotics Control Bureau has summoned Bineesh Kodiyeri, the son of state CPI-M secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, in connection with the Bengaluru drug racket. Bineesh was found to be close to one of the key suspects nabbed in connection with the crime.