A Special Legislative Committee has found that V.A. Arun Kumar, son of former Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, was appointed the director of ICT academy in Kerala through irregular means, without adequate qualification.
Committee chairman V.D. Satheesan presented its report in the Assembly on Thursday amidst protest from the Opposition for not allowing four of the committee members to record their note of dissent in the report.
The committee was divided along political lines in its fact finding mission. Mr. Satheesan and four other representatives of the UDF indicted Mr. Achuthanandan's son, while four representatives of the LDF in the committee disagreed. The committee examined the relevant records and 17 witnesses, including Mr. Achuthanandan and former Education Minister M.A. Baby, during its inquiry.
The committee was set up on July 20, 2011, when Mr. Achuthanandan, who now holds the responsibility of the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, proposed an inquiry by a special legislative committee into the allegation of nepotism levelled against him by Congress MLA P.C. Vishnunath.
The committee also found substance in Mr. Vishnunath's allegation that Mr. Arun Kumar was made the Additional Director of the State-owned Institute of Human Resources Development (IHRD) by diluting the original qualification specified for the post.
Originally, the specified qualifications included a first class master's degree in engineering, eight years of teaching experience, and four years of administrative experience. Mr. Arun Kumar did not have the specified academic qualification and experience. The rules were amended by IHRD to facilitate Mr. Arun Kumar's elevation from the post of Joint Director to that of Additional Director.
“Even his appointment as Joint Director earlier was without adequate qualifications,” the report said.
Two other charges, which involved corruption, were also levelled against Mr. Arun Kumar by Mr. Vishnunath, but the committee dismissed both for “want of evidence,” Mr. Satheesan told a media conference soon after the presentation of the report in the Assembly.
Three other UDF representatives in the committee—Abdul Rehaman Randathani, K. Sivadasan Nair, and Thomas Unniyadan—were with him at the press conference.
The LDF representatives in the committee—P.K. Gurudasan, C.K. Nanu, S. Sarma, and Mullakkara Ratnakaran—wanted to place on record their dissenting note in the report, but Mr. Satheesan disallowed it citing rules and procedures relating to the functioning of special Assembly committees and a ruling by former Speaker of the Kerala Assembly Varkala Radhakrishnan in a similar situation in 1987.
The Assembly witnessed a strong debate on Mr. Satheeshan's decision, with Deputy Leader of the Opposition Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and CPI(M) MLA A.K. Balan citing a precedent in the Lok Sabha, when the Parliamentary Committee that inquired into the Bofors deal took in its report a 20-page dissenting note by AIDMK member in the committee Aladi Aruna, following a ruling from the chair.
Speaker G. Karthikeyan, while allowing Mr. Satheesan to present the report in the House without the dissenting note, said he would go by the rules and procedures and the only precedent in a similar situation in the Kerala Assembly in 1987. He, however, allowed the LDF members to place their dissenting note on the table of the House.