Kerala: Minister KT Jaleel resigns after Lok Ayukta's verdict in nepotism case

After much vacillation and blind defence, higher education minister K T Jaleel submitted his resignation in the wake of Lok Ayukta’s verdict, indicting him for nepotism in the appointment of a relative to the Minorities Finance Development Corporation.

The resignation came even as the minister approached the Kerala High Court with a plea to strike down the Lok Ayukta order on the ground that the ombudsman had exceeded his brief in recommending Jaleel’s sacking.

As the court was hearing the petition, Jaleel’s counsel informed the court that the minister has resigned and the court deferred the case for the next day for a decision on whether to admit the petition.

But the court refused to grant a stay, as requested by the minister, and observed that the Lok Ayukta had the powers to conduct independent inquiry when both the counsels of the minister as well as the state government argued that the order was not sustainable.

At one stage, the court even asked whether Jaleel continued to be a minister after the watchdog recommended to the chief minster to straightaway expel the minister from the cabinet.

It is learnt that the decision to resign came after the party let the minister know that the chief minster favoured Jaleel to quit without waiting for the outcome of the petition in the high court.

The stout defence put up by the minister as well as law minister A K Balan that the Lok Ayukta order was not binding on the chief minister and that Jaleel had legal rights to question the verdict in a higher court had led to a debate within the party about the propriety of allowing the minister to continue when senior minister E P Jayarajan was asked to resign in view of allegations of nepotism in appointments.

After Jaleel submitted the resignation, party sources claimed that the action was in keeping with the high moral standards followed by the ruling party, a claim that the opposition ridiculed, saying that the minister and the party tried their best to cling on till the last minute.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala and KPCC chief Mullappally Ramachandran demanded the resignation of chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who has all along supported Jaleel. In fact, the chief minister had signed a note prepared by Jaleel, asking for changes in the qualifications for the position so as to accommodate his relative.

Announcing his resignation, Jaleel said in a facebook post that the decision will please the opposition, which has been after his blood, temporarily, but insisted that he had done nothing wrong. He concluded the post in a tone of challenge, saying he will be around.

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