K.T. Jaleel, the Kerala Minister for Higher Education, spent over nine hours at the Kochi office of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday, answering questions by the agency in connection with the diplomatic baggage gold smuggling case that was busted at the Trivandrum international airport on July 5.
The minister avoided the media glare yet again as he reached the NIA office early in the morning, by about 6 am, even though the questioning was slated to start only around 9 am.
The sleuths recorded his statement till afternoon and he returned to the capital, Thiruvananthapuram, by 5 pm. The questioning was over by 3 pm, but the minister had to wait for the police to give him security clearance as the Opposition parties held protest demonstrations across the state demanding his resignation.
Jaleel spoke to The Federal over the phone immediately after he got out of the NIA office. “I was summoned as a witness in the case. They wanted information to cross-check the statements of the accused in the gold smuggling case. They asked me about my dealings with the UAE Consulate as a state minister,” he said.
The minister told The Federal that he had chosen the time to appear before the NIA as that was convenient for him. He said that it was not interrogation but just a “recording of statements.”
The minister said he was summoned as a witness under Section 160 of the CrPC in connection with the gold smuggling case. The NIA also sought details of the controversial distribution of Koran from the Consulate that he had facilitated, he said.
The minister told The Federal that he has nothing to hide. “I challenge the Muslim League leaders to swear in the name of the Holy Koran and say that they hold me guilty. All these allegations raised by the Opposition will die down when the investigation is over. I am not like the BJP or the UDF leaders. The truth will come out even if the entire world tries to suppress it.”
The opposition parties held protests across the state demanding his resignation. In many places, the police resorted to baton-charge to control the protesters. The demonstration in the capital is still going on. UDF leaders, including MLA V T Balram and several cops, were injured as the protesters became unruly.
But the ruling CPI (M) has decided not to yield to the “pressure” put by the Opposition. The party has declared its support to the minister. “There is no reason to demand Jaleel’s resignation,” said A K Balan, the minister for culture and SC/ST welfare.
The CPI, too, came out in support of the minister. In a statement, the state secretary of the party Kanam Rajendran said there is no need for the minister to resign. He said that former chief minister Oomman Chandy did not resign despite facing judicial inquiry related to the Solar case.
A Vijayaraghavan, the LDF convenor, and M V Govindan, a member of the CPI(M) Secretariat, also stated that the government will not yield to the “pressure based on baseless allegations.”