Kerala Higher Education Minister KT Jaleel is being questioned by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) which is probing the gold smuggling case. The minister reached the office of the probe agency in Kochi in a private vehicle as early as 6 AM. He is being questioned by the NIA almost six days after he was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate.
The Enforcement Directorate had questioned him on a consignment of Quran received from the UAE consulate during the Ramzan period.
The opposition in Kerala - the Congress-led UDF and the BJP - has been protesting across the state, demanding the minister's resignation since the questioning last week.
Workers of the Youth Congress were detained while protesting outside the NIA's office in Kochi as they refused to vacate the area. One of the workers allegedly broke the glass window of a police vehicle with his hand after being detained. In Palakkad, the police had to resort to the use of water cannons and lathi-charge the protesting Youth Congress workers. Several protesters, including Congress MLA VT Balram, as well as police personnel, were injured.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has backed his minister repeatedly, saying he is being politically targeted, and has done no wrong.
KT Jaleel is also the Minister for Welfare of Minorities, Wakf and Hajj. The minister himself had spoken of this consignment, saying there was nothing wrong in it. The Enforcement Directorate is probing if this is in violation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) rules.
In July, a leaked call list showed multiple calls exchanged between the minister and one of the accused in the gold smuggling case - Swapna Suresh.
However, the minister had told media that he had spoken to Ms Suresh, after being told to do so by UAE Consulate General, in connection with sponsored food kits for families in need during Ramzan.
The NIA is one of the agencies probing the gold smuggling case, along with the Customs and the Enforcement Directorate.
Pinarayi Vijayan had backed his minister, saying, "Some quarters sent a lot of complaints deliberately to the investigating agencies and it's their responsibility to bring clarity to the complaints... No charges have been levelled against the minister. Only some fabricated stories are doing the rounds."
"There is no need for Jaleel to resign as there is no case against him. As part of a probe, some information was sought from him by the investigation agency," Mr Vijayan had said.