Kerala Minister for Higher Education KT Jaleel appeared before the Kerala State Customs Department office in Kochi today. Visuals aired by news channels show the minister reaching the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate in his official vehicle.
The Customs Department had summoned the Minister as part of their probe on the alleged violation in accepting dates and religious texts via a diplomatic channel. Jaleel was questioned on whether the religious scriptures arrived without the permission of the Ministry of External Affairs and if government vehicles were used to distribute them. Officials also questioned if the Minister was aware of the breach of protocol.
Jaleel was earlier questioned by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Department (ED) in connection with the ongoing controversial Kerala gold smuggling case.
The Customs Department had unearthed a gold smuggling operation this year, putting PS Sarith, Swapna Suresh, and M Sivasankar under their scanner. Sarith and Swapna had used their relationship with the UAE Consulate to smuggle the gold, while Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to CM Vijayan, had used his authority to allow it through. Swapna’s call history showed several calls made to Jaleel. The minister was questioned by the NIA based on the call history. Jaleel however denied personal contact, explaining that the Consulate had directed him to her for the distribution of flood relief kits.
The ED questioned Jaleel to find out if the Minister had disregarded the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) while bringing the Quran and dates through the diplomatic channel. According to the act, the minister would require prior permission from the Centre to accept foreign aid. Reportedly, the minister received around 300 copies of the religious text from the Consulate via diplomatic channels. He allegedly, had also used an official vehicle to transport the books in Malappuram.
Several protests demanding Jaleel’s resignation from the cabinet over the same have been held across the State, including Thiruvananthapuram and outside Jaleel’s residence.
Meanwhile Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan has handed a complaint to the Kerala University Chancellor regarding Jaleel’s Ph.D, which he had secured from Kerala University in 2006. According to the complaint filed by the ‘Save University’ campaign committee, Jaleel allegedly did not make any contribution to his thesis on the Malabar riot and that the expert panel should review it.