Bengaluru: The Kerala government will order a judicial investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against A.K. Saseendran, who quit as the state transport minister on Saturday.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Wednesday’s cabinet meeting will decide on the investigating officer.
“Saseendran resigned not out of admitting the offence, but on moral grounds. He took a decision that when such allegations surface, it will not be morally right for him to hold a public office. The society is welcoming his decision. However, he should have resigned only after the government conducted a preliminary investigation. Fact remains that his move would encourage people to raise unsubstantiated allegations against public office holders," Vijayan said on Facebook.
Mangalam TV, from the owners of Malayalam daily Mangalam, launched on Sunday with an audio tape of a sexually explicit conversation between a man and an unidentified woman. The channel claimed this is evidence against Saseendran’s sexual misconduct against a widow from Kannur district.
Within hours, the minister resigned. He denied any misconduct but said since the matter has become a controversy, he did not want to put his government and the ruling front in trouble when a crucial by-election is near. He also asked for an investigation.
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The woman in the audio remains unidentified and the channel has not submitted any evidence to prove the allegations. The police department has been unwilling to file a case, pointing at the lack of evidence.
The channel has faced criticism on the social media as well as from other television channels. Critics says this is more of a breach of privacy rather than sexual misconduct.
“The charge of sexual misconduct raised against A.K. Saseendran is an intrusion into privacy, and in my opinion, this is kind of manufacturing news, which is cheap TRP mongering, to say the least," wrote Malayalam writer and social critic N.S. Madhavan, in The Times of India on Monday.
“In my knowledge, the so-called lewd conversation, said to have taken place between the ex-minister and an unidentified woman, remains a private issue between the two, so long as there is no complaint from the victim or that he used his power as a minister to keep her silent. We haven’t heard the lady yet. The ‘investigative’ media should have aired her views or brought out that the minister was not allowing her to speak. As of now, it looks more like blackmail than journalism."
Mangalam TV CEO Ajit Kumar has denied the criticism.
Vijayan said phone-tapping is a serious offence and the investigation will also look into if there was an intrusion upon anyone’s privacy