Thiruvananthapuram: Even though Kerala’s Minister for Higher Education K T Jaleel has resigned following a ruling of the Lok Ayukta, prosecution proceedings could still be initiated against him, according to legal experts.
In fact, Jaleel’s fate would be decided by the government that comes to power in the state when the results of the just-concluded Assembly election are declared next month, they said. While the LDF could give him a reprieve, Jaleel could be in real trouble if the UDF gains power.
When P K Firoz, a leader of the Youth League, approached the Kerala High Court for registering a case against Jaleel under the anti-corruption law over the nepotism issue, he was asked whether the sanction of the appointing authority had been obtained. Subsequently, Firoz submitted an application before the Governor and Chief Minister seeking the permission. However, while the Government took the stand that a Vigilance inquiry was not required, the then Governor P Sathasivam forwarded the application to the Government. Later, the Governor supported the Government’s stand.
The petitioners then moved the Lok Ayukta raising the nepotism charge against Jaleel. According to the law, the Minister would lose his post in case the allegation is proved, but will not face any punishment. “However, if the act of nepotism causes any loss to the government or gain to undeserving individuals, the issue comes under the the Prevention of Corruption Act,” said B G Hareendranath, a former Law Secretary.
In its order, the Lok Ayukta stated that the allegation of nepotism against Jaleel has been proved. Moreover, the person who was appointed due to Jaleel’s intervention had received salary and other benefits from the government. Considering these facts, the anti-corruption Act could be applied to the issue and the petitioners can again approach the appointing authorities seeking permission to prosecute Jaleel.
In case the LDF retains power, the Government would stick to its stand opposing a Vigilance probe against Jaleel, but if the UDF forms the Government, it would most likely allow the prosecution proceedings.
At the same time, as the appointing authority of the Minister, the Governor can sanction prosecution against Jaleel even without the recommendation of the Government, according to Hareendranath. He pointed out the instance of the Governor allowing prosecution against Pinarayi Vijayan in the SNC-Lavalin case, rejecting the recommendation of the Government.
‘Lok Ayukta has no powers’
Meanwhile, Jaleel’s advocate argued before the High Court that the Lok Ayukta lacked the powers to pass an order against the Minister. According to the lawyer, the Kerala State Minorities Development Finance Corporation, where Jaleel’s relative was appointed, did not come under the ambit of the Lok Ayukta. “The Lok Ayukta should not even have considered the petition against the Minister. Moreover, not even a preliminary probe was conducted before issuing the order,” the advocate said.
The state attorney representing the Government also argued that the normal procedures were not followed by the Lok Ayukta. After the preliminary findings, hearing was conducted for a single day before the order was passed, he said.
While the petition against the Minister was posted for a preliminary probe from February 6, 2019 to March 26, 2021, the hearing was held on March 30 and the order was issued on April 9, pointed out the state attorney.
But, the advocate representing the petitioner K Muhammed Shafi said that the Lok Ayukta had followed all proper procedures. The Minister’s lawyer and the state attorney did not consider several orders passed by the Lok Ayukta while making their arguments, he said.