Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 7 | Kerala Assembly Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan and his office are on a collision course with the Customs department over the Speaker’s Assistant Private Secretary K. Ayyappan being called in for questioning in the gold smuggling case.
Ayyappan failed to appear before the Customs twice after he was called in. In the first instance, he did not appear for questioning stating that he was not informed in writing. When the Customs again sent a formal e-mail communique to him, the secretary who is a judicial officer responded that the Speaker and the Legislative Assembly have protection under Assembly Rules of Business Section 165-A and that Ayyappan cannot appear before the Customs unless the Speaker gives his consent.
Speaker Sreeramakrishnan said that no one within the premises of the Assembly could be arrested or taken for interrogation without his consent.
He said “No one is afraid of any investigation but all the rules and procedures of the Assembly and its rules of business have to be adhered to and hence taking any legal action within the premises of the House has to be conducted after obtaining the permission of the Speaker”.
However, Customs did not buy this argument and served a third notice to Ayyappan, this time to his official residential quarters asking him appear for interrogation on Friday at Customs headquarters in Kochi.
Meanwhile, Deputy Leader of the opposition Congress party in the Assembly K.C. Joseph said that under section 165-A, the protection is only for a Member of Legislative Assembly and it cannot be extended to the staff of the Speaker.
The Speaker said that he is not afraid of any investigation and that he has been in public life for the past 40 years and that he had not taken a single rupee as bribe from anyone. Sreeramakrishnan said “I will quit public life if there is any proof that I have taken a single rupee as bribe from anyone”.
The Customs, Enforcement Directorate and National Investigation Agency are conducting detailed investigations in the state and abroad in the sensational gold smuggling case. 21 people have been chargesheeted by the NIA and the Chief Minister’s former Principal Secretary M. Sivasankar is in judicial custody.