Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) Opposition legislators walked out of the Assembly on Thursday demanding the resignation of Forest Minister A. K. Saseendran for allegedly using the heft of his office to shield a sex offender from police prosecution.
Outside the Assembly gates, police fired water jets to disperse Yuva Morcha protestors clamouring for Mr. Saseendran’s ouster. They arrested two Mahila Morcha workers who tried to push past officers into the Assembly precincts.
In Kollam, the alleged victim, a BJP worker, said she would petition Kerala Governor Arif Muhammad Khan against Mr. Saseendran.
On the floor of the House, Opposition Leader V.D. Satheeshan berated the police "for sitting on the victim’s complaint for 22 days".
In the meantime, her alleged molester, an NCP leader, had disparaged the woman on social media. Mr. Satheeshan linked the "police inaction" to the Minister’s "interference at multiple levels" to protect the accused.
Mr. Satheeshan said Mr. Saseendran had brazenly asked the victim’s father, an NCP worker, to prevail on his daughter to withdraw the complaint. He had lost the moral right to continue in office.
“The police had misled Mr. Vijayan by falsely stating that they had acted promptly on the women’s complaint. The victim was constrained to highlight her plight in the media in the face of police inaction. The police department’s so-called special drive to protect women seemed not to have worked for the victim,” Mr. Satheeshan said.
"The government is with the predator. A Minister had obstructed justice in a sexual assault case. A helpless Chief Minister misled by the police sits on the treasury benches with his head bowed in shame. His defence of Mr. Saseendran is at best half-hearted", Mr. Satheeshan said.
Earlier, Congress legislator P. C. Vishnunath had moved an adjournment motion to discuss the issue. He said rampant victimisation of women had forced the Governor to observe a day’s fast. He read out a word-for-word transcript of the alleged conversation between Mr. Saseendran and the victim’s parent.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the State Police Chief (SPC) would investigate the delay in registration of the FIR. "This Minister (Saseendran) thought it was a party dispute. He did not call any officer and withdrew the moment he realised the nature of the complaint," Mr. Vijayan said.
Mr. Vijayan also refuted the Opposition’s charge that Mr. Khan’s one-day Gandhian fast against dowry was a political act.
The Governor had spotlighted the long outlawed and universally condemned practice of dowry to create social awareness. His Gandhian act was not a comment on the government, Mr. Vijayan said.
Speaker M. B. Rajesh denied leave for adjournment motion and ruled the CM’s reply satisfactory.
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