In a major relief for the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and former minister AK Saseendran, a Kerala court acquitted him in the sleaze tape case on Saturday.
The Thiruvananthapuram First Class Judicial Magistrate Court acquitted the senior NCP leader, and also dismissed a fresh Public Interest Litigation (PIL) asking for re-investigation. The order came in a case filed by a woman journalist of Mangalam TV channel against the minister, alleging that he asked her for sexual favours.
Speaking to media after the verdict, a smiling Saseendran said that he was happy that he was acquitted.
The verdict has come after several twists in the case. Although the woman journalist had filed the complaint against Saseendran in the lower court, she approached the High Court months later, seeking to withdraw the complaint. However, in a u-turn a few weeks later, she told the HC that she did not want to withdraw the petition.
The case dates back to March 26, 2017, when the newly-launched Malayalam news channel Mangalam TV aired the audio tape alleged to be that of Saseendran indulging in sleazy talk with a woman. Although the woman's voice was edited out and Saseendran was criticised for having exploited a woman, it soon came to light that it was a case of honey trapping. Following this, the woman journalist filed a complaint with the CJM court in April.
The supposed "expose" that earned much criticism for the channel, forced Saseendran to step down as the Transport Minister on the same day the channel aired the clip.
After the issue blew up into a major controversy, Mangalam channel CEO Ajith came on air to admit that the channel had done a sting operation on the minister. Following this, the police registered an FIR against Ajith Kumar and eight other employees of the channel.
The controversy also led to the LDF government appointing the PS Antony Commission to probe the case. Months later in November last year, AK Saseendran got a clean chit from the commission.