THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Setting the stage for NCP leader AK Saseendran's return to the Kerala cabinet, a lower court in the state capital on Saturday acquitted him in the sensational honey trap case, following which he quit from the cabinet 10 months ago.
In a major relief to the former transport minister, the Thiruvananthapuram Judicial First Class Magistrate acquitted him from the sexual harassment charges in connection with the case, citing lack of evidence against him. The court said there is no substantial evidence against Saseendran and the complainant has turned hostile.
The court also rejected another petition filed on Saturday, requesting not to settle the case. With the court verdict, now there are no legal hindrances from him to be re-inducted into the cabinet.
The magistrate court pronounced the verdict after the complainant - who was working with Television channel - turned hostile last week deposing statements in favour of Saseendran in the court. Refuting the earlier charges, the complainant changed her statement before the court. She deposed before the court that Saseendran had not harassed her either through a phone or directly.
She added that Saseendran had not misbehaved with her after inviting her to his official residence. Earlier, the woman who was part of a television news channel had claimed that Saseendran was involved in talking lewd comments to her over the phone.
Dramatic turn of developments
Meanwhile, on Saturday the court witnessed a dramatic turn of events earlier in the day when a new petition was filed, urging the court not to permit Saseendran and the complainant to settle the case.
The petition, filed by one Mahalakshmi, resident of Bappuji Nagar, Thycaud, alleged that the complaint turned hostile due to fear of life and pressure from certain quarters. However, the court rejected the petition after finding that the address given by the petitioner was fake.
Two months ago, the PS Antony judicial commission, which probed conspiracy behind the honey trap case, had also given clean chit to Saseendran stating that the private channel had trapped the minister "with commercial interests" in mind.
Last year, a new Television channel on the day of its launch the then newly-launched channel had released audio clips in which Saseendran purportedly talks to a woman in explicitly sexual tones. Subsequently, it came to light that the woman in question was a reporter of Mangalam channel, assigned to 'trap' the minister. The channel's news break also prompted him to step down from the post of transport minister. However, he is yet to be re-inducted into the cabinet.