After facing a torrid time in a case related to sleaze talk with a woman journalist, NCP leader A K Saseendran, who was recently acquitted by a court of sexual harassment charges over which he was forced to quit the LDF cabinet last year, was today sworn in again as minister. In a brief ceremony at the Raj Bhavan, Kerala Governor P Sathasivam administered the oath of office and secrecy to Saseendran. The Chief Minister and his cabinet colleagues were present at the function, which was boycotted by the Opposition Congress-led UDF.
Saseendran had resigned as Transport minister in March last year after a Malayalam TV channel released an audio clipping of his purported conversation with a woman. A case was registered against Saseendran after the woman filed a complaint, in which she stated that he had misbehaved with her when she met him for an interview at his office.
Last Saturday, a magistrate court in Thiruvananthapuram had cleared Saseendran of charges after the woman scribe had retracted her earlier statement against the politician. Saseendran had to quit as the minister in April last year after a TV channel telecast his alleged sleaze talk with a woman, whom the channel projected as a complainant harassed by the minister. Later, the then newly launched Mangalam TV said it had trapped the minister, deploying a woman scribe.
Challenging Saseendran’s acquittal, a petitioner has approached the Kerala High Court stating that the woman complainant had been pressured for settlement in the case. Her plea before the CJM court had been dismissed earlier. The government had appointed the Justice P S Antony commission to probe the allegations, but it could not ascertain the authenticity of the audio clip. Thomas Chandy, the NCP’s other MLA, had replaced Saseendran as the transport minister. However, Chandy had to quit in November after land encroachment allegations surfaced against him. The Nationalist Congress Party state leadership had then taken a decision that whoever comes clean of the charges against them first would become the minister again. The CEO of the TV channel and four journalists were arrested in connection with the ‘sleaze audio’ and are now out on bail.