Kerala Transport Minister Thomas Chandy has quit and informed the Cabinet regarding his decision, according to the latest news report by Manorama News and Mathrubhumi News. Ahead of Pinarayi Vijayan’s cabinet meeting this morning, the Nationalist Congress Party leader had met the Chief Minister. In an unusual and unprecedented development, 4 CPI Ministers reportedly boycotted the Cabinet meeting and were in a huddle, which is a clear departure from party norms. Local media reported that CPI leaders had raised the question how a Minister could continue to occupy office after having challenged the government’s action in a court of law. So, what is this Thomas Chandy controversy all about and why has it taken Kerala politics by storm?
For over a month now, the businessman-turned-Minister Thomas Chandy had been facing an onslaught from the opposition regarding a luxury resort in Alappuzha district, which had reportedly violated land rules and encroached upon backwaters.
Matters turned grave when the Alapuzha district collector TV Anupama submitted her report to the government, which categorically stated that there are serious violations pertaining to Conservation of Paddyland and Wetland Act as well as Kerala Land Conservation Act. The minister approached Kerala High Court to challenge this and was slammed by the HC for challenging the government.
To make things worse, when asked questions by journalists, Thomas Chandy reportedly made snide remarks about CPI, which has also not gone down well with the party.
Now here is where things began to go wrong. As per law, the District Collector represents the government and is duty bound to scrutinize and report the violation of laws, particularly those that relate to a violation of land-related laws. In this case, the District Collector examined the allegations, presented a report to the Revenue Department and this report is a government document. For a Minister representing the government to challenge this report raises grave issues.
Observations made by the Kerala High Court indicated that this amounted to a violation of collective cabinet responsibility by Transport Minister Thomas Chandy. Referring to Thomas Chandy’s writ petition, Kerala High Court stated, “It shows that the Minister has lost trust in the Chief Minister and the government in which he is a Minister. A Minister cannot file a writ against his own government.” For the same reason, Kerala High Court slammed Thomas Chandy’s action of challenging the District Collector’s report while occupying the position of a Minister.