In a relief to the Left government in Kerala, the Lokayukta on Friday dismissed a plea filed by senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala against state Education Minister R Bindu alleging that she abused her position as minister in reappointing Gopinath Ravindran as the vice-chancellor of Kannur University.
Soon after the verdict, the minister came out criticising the Congress-led UDF saying both the opposition and the media should study things properly before raising allegations, while the Congress leadership termed the judgment as "not logical" and said they would file an appeal against it.
In an order, Lokayukta Justice Cyriac Joseph and Upa-Lokayukta Harun-Ul-Rashid said though it was alleged that the minister was guilty of favouritism, nepotism and lack of integrity", there was absolutely no material to substantiate the allegation.
It also said there was no allegation that she was actuated in the discharge of her functions as minister by personal interest or improper or corrupt motives.
Saying that the complainant has pointed out the "extraordinary speed" with which things moved on a single day to facilitate the reappointment on November 23, the order said it appears that wisdom dawned late and by then time was running out and extraordinary speed was required.
With the cooperation of the chancellor, the reappointment was made as desired by the government. But there was no abuse of her position as minister, the order said.
"In the light of the above discussion, we hold that there is no legal or factual basis for the allegations raised against the 3rd respondent (Bindu) and that they need not be investigated by this Court under Section 9 of the Kerala Lokayukta Act. 15. Therefore, the complaint is dismissed," the order said.
The Congress-UDF has been demanding the resignation of the minister for some time in the wake of the allegations against her over the reappointment of the Kannur VC.
Alleging that the opposition and the media levelled a series of allegations against her in the last two months, Bindu said things might have become more clear for them in view of the judgment and wanted them to let her deliver her duties peacefully.
"Things should move on in a peaceful atmosphere...Then only positive and constructive things will happen in the society. No one can work in a society which is negative. So we all should pay attention to avoid unwanted controversies and arguments...that's what I feel," Bindu told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.
The minister also said she doesn't want to make any controversial remarks against Governor Arif Mohammed Khan who came out against her and the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government over the issue.
However, Chennithala, who approached the Lokayukta with the complaint, said the minister, who was also pro-vice chancellor of the university, had sought the reappointment of a retired person violating the existing norms.
"What does it mean, if this is not nepotism? Lokayukta should clarify this. It is surely a case of nepotism and favouritism. The verdict is not logical and credible for people," he alleged.
Sticking to his earlier stand that the minister's recommendation for Ravindran's reappointment was a violation of the existing rules of the university and constitutional norms of the country, the leader also said there was no ground for the Lokayukta to give a clean chit to Bindu.
Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, V D Satheesan said if the letter written to the Governor, also the chancellor of the university, by the minister seeking the reappointment of Ravindran was not illegal, the Lokayukta should say what else it was.
An appeal would be moved against the present verdict, he added.
The Governor and the opposition parties including the Congress have been attacking the Left government over Bindu's alleged intervention in the reappointment of Ravindran as Kannur VC, saying it was an "infringement" on the authority of the chancellor.
A copy of the Higher Education Minister's purported letter to the Governor seeking reappointment of Ravindran for a continuous term from November 24, 2021 had surfaced recently triggering a political row in the state. Recently, the Kerala High Court had dismissed a plea against Ravindran's reappointment for the post of VC. The court had said that the reappointment was different from appointment and the procedure adopted for the latter need not be followed when reappointing someone.