UDF walks out of Kerala Assembly over allegations against Forest Minister AK Saseendran

Minister for Forest and Wildlife Protection AK Saseendran has been accused of intervening in a case of molestation filed against a leader of his party.

UDF walks out of Kerala Assembly over allegations against Forest Minister AK Saseendran
The UDF staged a walkout protest during the second session of the Kerala Assembly. (Photo credit: PTI)

By Press Trust of India

Thiruvananthapuram: The first day of the second session of the Kerala Assembly on Thursday saw the opposition Congress raking up the issue of Forest Minister AK Saseendran, who had allegedly attempted to settle a sexual harassment case. Following this, the United Democratic Front (UDF) staged a walkout protesting the Speaker’s decision to not allow an adjournment motion in the matter.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who replied to the adjournment motion moved by Congress legislator PC Vishnunath, said the minister had already made it clear that he had interfered thinking it was some party-related matter.

“The complainant and the accused in the case are party workers of the NCP. The minister had made it clear, that as a party leader, he just inquired about a dispute between the two party workers,” Vijayan said.

The Chief Minister also informed the House that police was probing the complaint of the victim and there was no need to discuss it in the House.

Leader of Opposition in the Assembly VD Satheesan said it was clear through the voice clip that was aired in the media that the minister interfered in the probe. “From the voice clip, it is clear that the Forest Minister interfered in the matter and asked the father of the victim to settle the case,” Satheesan said and later the Congress-UDF staged a walkout.

Vijayan said the  Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) minister made it clear that he never had any intention to weaken the case and did not call any police officer in the matter.
“The Minister, who is the leader of NCP, had called the party worker to resolve a party-related issue. He had made it clear that when he came to know about the sexual harassment matter, he decided not to interfere,” Vijayan said.

Vishnunath, while presenting the motion, said the minister instead of supporting the victim, tried to influence her father. “The minister instead of extending support to the victim, called her father to ensure that no legal action will be taken against the culprit. She filed the complaint on June 28 and the police is yet to record her statement,” the Kundara legislator said.

Interestingly, Saseendran had to resign as the Transport Minister from the first Vijayan government, in the wake of sleaze talk allegations against him.

The issue came to the fore after Malayalam news channels started airing an alleged telephonic conversation between Saseendran and the woman’s father, seeking to settle the issue by mutual agreement.

Subsequently, the minister had told the media that he did call up the girl’s father, but to try and settle what he thought was a dispute in the party. He had claimed that when he found out that it was a case of attempted sexual assault, he did not intervene any further.

The woman, a BJP member, said the NCP member in question had asked her in March whether she had joined BJP to earn money and if so, he would pay her and had then allegedly grabbed her arm. However, she had not lodged a complaint then.

Thereafter, the NCP member used to mock her at various fora and then on June 28 posted her election campaign poster on WhatsApp with the comment that her father got her to join BJP for earning money.

On seeing this, she told her father about the earlier incident and he said a complaint should be lodged with the police.