Customs serves notice on Speaker’s personal staff

Sreeramakrishnan says the notice is not in order

Even as Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan maintained that the notice issued by the Customs summoning his assistant private secretary K. Ayyappan for questioning in the foreign currency smuggling case was not in order, the Customs on Thursday issued notice to the official in his home address to appear before it.

Citing the rules of business of the House at a press conference on the eve of the Budget session of the Assembly, the Speaker said the Customs would have to follow the procedures and that his consent was needed to serve notice on anyone on the premises of the Assembly.

Legislature Secretary S.V. Unnikrishnan Nair had only communicated Rule 165 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Kerala Legislative Assembly to the Customs and it was not aimed to delay or derail the investigation. “We are not against any inquiry. But, the investigating agencies will have to follow the procedures,” the Speaker said.

To query on whether the Customs will summon him, Mr. Sreeramakrishnan said he had only media reports in this regard. “In my 40 years of public life, I had not taken even a bribe of ₹1. If anyone proves I have taken it, I will quit my public life. I will not bow as I have not done anything wrong,” he said.

The Customs informed the Legislature Secretary that Rule 161 to 165 have been incorporated to protect the legislature and not to shield any guilty person or to cover up any information being revealed to a competent legal authority pursuant to a legal mandate.

Accordingly a physical entry of a process server or arrest by law enforcement authority is deemed permissible only on obtaining the permission of the Speaker. The summons was issued in this instance through electronic mode without attempting physical service, the Customs had pointed out. The fresh notice to Mr. Ayyapan was served on a legal advice received by the Customs.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala condemned the Speaker for his alleged attempt to derail the foreign currency smuggling case. “The Speaker is misinterpreting the Assembly rules to save himself from the investigation. The protection available for legislators is not applicable to their staff,” he said citing a ruling of the Speaker in 1970.

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