HC rap leaves Thomas Chandy under mounting pressure

HC rap leaves Thomas Chandy under mounting pressure

Kerala Transport Minister Thomas Chandy was on Tuesday nudged closer to what appeared to be imminent resignation after the high court questioned his decision to challenge a district collector's report which validated allegations of land encroachment against him.

A division bench of judges P N Ravindran and Devan Ramachandran rejected Chandy's writ petition in this connection and observed that the minister's move was in conflict with the collective responsibility entrusted with the Cabinet.

The state unit of Chandy's party, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), has asked its central leadership to decide on Chandy's future in the CPM-led Left Democratic Front government. Chandy, a businessman-turned-politician, is NCP's only minister in the Cabinet.

The bench pointed out the incongruity in a minister moving the court against the order of an official who represents the government he himself is part of. Chandy had approached the court against Alappuzha District Collector T V Anupama's report which confirmed allegations of land encroachment and backwater reclamation for a resort the minister owns. The court said the minister could approach the collector with his grievances regarding her report.

Amid mounting pressure on Chandy to step down, NCP Kerala president T P Peethambaran said the state unit would convey to the national leadership views on the issue and await its decision. He maintained that the court did not term Chandy guilty of encroachment.

CM to wait

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said an "appropriate decision" on the minister would be taken after considering the court's order and NCP's stand. The CPI, the second largest party in the ruling coalition, persisted with a different tone - "When ministers lead parties, instead of parties leading their ministers, we have such unfortunate situations," state secretary Kanam Rajendran said.

The opposition Congress' agitation against Chandy lost some steam after its own Rajya Sabha MP and lawyer Vivek Tankha appeared for the minister in the high court. Despite the state Congress' attempts to stall Tankha through AICC intervention, he appeared for Chandy on Tuesday, after facing a protest by Youth Congress workers.

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