Gold smuggling case: Former Kerala IT secretary Sivasankar suspended

Gold smuggling case: Former IT secretary Sivasankar suspended
Senior IAS official M Sivasankar

Thiruvananthapuram: Former Kerala IT secretary and senior IAS officer M Sivasankar, who was found close to prime accused in a gold smuggling scandal, has been suspended from service pending enquiry.

The disciplinary action, announced by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan during his sunset briefing in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday, was based on the report submitted by the two-member committee of Chief Secretary Vishwas Mehta and additional chief secretary (finance).

Vijayan said the Departmental enquiry, which was instituted after the scandal broke out, would continue.

The chief minister said the report stated that Sivasankar had violated All India Service Conduct Rules. The report had also recommended that a probe should be conduced into the various appointments made in the IT Department. The chef minister said he would provide further details about he findings of the two-member committee after reading the report.

The chief minister, however, sidestepped a question whether the two-member committee had found Sivasankar guilty of appointing Swapna Suresh at Space Park. He just said some of Sivasankar's activities were not in keeping with the standards of conduct of the All India Services. He was not willing divulge any further.

In fact, one of the terms of reference of the chief secretary's committee was to find out whether Swapna Suresh had produced fake documents to secure a position at Space Park. The chief minister, however, said the chief secretary's committee focused on service-related matters.

He said the fake certificate angle was already being probed by the Kerala Police on the bass of a complaint registered by Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited (KSITIL) under which the Space Park functioned. The chief minister also said that there was no need for a CBI enquiry into the issue.

Before this departmental action was announced, Sivasankar was only asked to go on a long leave.

Pinarayi Vijayan sounded vague when asked whether he was aware of the appointment of Arun Balachandran, an IT professional who has now been linked to he accused, to various important posts in the IT Department. Balachandran was the chief minister's former 'IT Fellow' and was also the operations director at IT Parks, another project under the State IT Department. He has now been suspended after his role came out. The chief minister but did not confirm whether Balachandran was removed on his orders.

Earlier in the day, the chief minister had consulted top LDF leaders on the Sivasankar issue. There will be political consequences that the party will now be called upon to manage. Sivasankar's suspension would make the cry for the chief minister's resignation shriller, causing more embarrassment for the party. Consulting with top leaders in the party, therefore, is a way of telling them to be on guard.

The chief minister's attitude towards Sivasankar had also evolved in the last few days. Initially, while asking him to go on a long leave, Vijayan had emphasised that it was a decision prompted by ethical concerns. "We thought it would not be right to have a person accused of close links to a controversial woman in the chief minister's office. But this does not mean that he had done anything legally wrong," Vijayan had said.

But the chief minister's attitude changed when more proof linking Sivasankar to Swapna, Sandeep Warrier and Sarith came to light. "In normal case, a bureaucrat has to do his job and move on. Now, it seems it was not the case. He should not have struck a bond with such a person," the chief minster said on July 14.

Nonetheless, Vijayan also made it clear that action would be taken only if there was solid proof.

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