HC raps Kerala minister in land grab case


Bengaluru: Pressure mounted on Kerala’s transport minister Thomas Chandy to quit after the state high court criticized him sharply on Tuesday over a case of land encroachment.

Chandy had moved the high court challenging the findings of an official probe that said he was guilty of public land encroachment and ecological violations. The court rejected Chandy’s petition and asked why the government had not sacked him for opposing an official probe, regional news channel Manorama News reported.

The probe had found that a lake-side resort run by Chandy in a pristine location in Alappuzha district may have potentially violated environmental laws and encroached upon government land, among other illegalities, while building an approach road and reclaiming a portion of the lake for setting up a parking lot.

“It’s a classic case for disqualification. The writ petition shows that the minister has lost trust in the chief minister and the government in which he is also a minister. We are embarrassed to say that a minister cannot file a writ petition against his own government,” the court orally observed, reported The Hindu.

Chandy’s cabinet colleagues, Communist leaders and leaders of own Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have asked him to step down. But Chandy, the richest cabinet member and the sole NCP minister, remains in place.

Significantly, appearing against Chandy on Tuesday, government counsel strongly argued in favour of the probe report and called the minister’s opposition to it “immature”.

The state unit of NCP has sought the opinion of its national leadership, state president T.P. Peethambaran told reporters. It is better for Chandy to quit, said senior communist leader and public works minister G. Sudhakaran. Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said the verdict leaves no option for Chandy but to quit.

Several members of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) have been demanding Chandy’s resignation for some time. On Monday, Pannyan Raveendran, leader of Communist Party of India, LDF’s second biggest constituent, demanded Chandy step down, whereas Kerala’s senior-most communist leader V.S. Achuthanandan said, “Chandy should be thrown out of the cabinet”.

The LDF entrusted chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday to take a decision. On Tuesday, Vijayan told reporters that he has learned about the court order and is in talks with the NCP leadership. “Appropriate decision will be taken at the right time,” he said.

Chandy is the third minister to face allegations in the nearly 16-month-old Vijayan’s cabinet. Two others had to step down soon after they were accused of misconduct. While E.P. Jayarajan, minister for industries and sports, had to leave after facing charges of nepotism last year, A.K. Saseendran, minister for transport, quit following allegations of sexual misconduct in April. Jayarajan was a leader of Vijayan’s Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Saseendran was a leader of NCP.