The 14th Kerala Legislative Assembly’s final Budget session saw a tumultuous beginning on Friday with the Congress-led United Democratic Front boycotting Governor Arif Muhammad Khan’s address, reported The Hindu. Slogans were shouted against Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan over alleged links to corruption cases.

After the MLAs began sloganeering, Khan said he was doing his constitutional duty. “It is expected that no obstruction shall be created while the Governor is performing his constitutional duty,” he said, according to NDTV. “Do not interrupt me.”

The Opposition had moved a statutory resolution under Article 179 of the Constitution to remove the Speaker from his office on charges of lowering the esteem of the House with his alleged association with gold smugglers. The Speaker’s Assistant Private Secretary K Ayyapan had appeared before customs officials on Friday in connection with the dollar smuggling case, which came to light during the inquiry into the gold smuggling.

UDF legislators carried on with their protests for around 10 minutes inside the House, after which they stepped out. Following this, they staged a sit-in protest on the pathway leading to the Assembly, and shouted slogans against the Vijayan-led government, according to The Hindu.

“We boycotted the House in protest of the attitude of Speaker and the government,” Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala told ANI. “[The] Pinarayi Vijayan government is the most corrupt government Kerala has ever seen. Gold smuggling case, dollar case, etc are serious allegations against the government.”

The Opposition has strongly criticised Vijayan after his suspended Principal Secretary M Sivasankar was arrested in an alleged money laundering case that is linked to the gold smuggling case.

Gold smuggling case

The Enforcement Directorate, the customs department and the National Investigation Agency are conducting separate inquiries into the alleged gold smuggling racket. The alleged racket was busted with the seizure of Rs 15 crore worth of the precious metal from the “diplomatic baggage” of the United Arab Emirates Consulate at the Thiruvananthapuram airport in July.

On July 5, gold weighing 30 kg concealed in imported plumbing material was seized by customs officials upon inspection of an air cargo consignment addressed to the Consular General of the United Arab Emirates in Thiruvananthapuram district. Officials valued the gold at Rs 15 crore.

The customs department arrested one Sarith PS on the same day for allegedly facilitating the smuggling of the gold in diplomatic baggage from Thiruvananthapuram to Dubai.

Sarith PS and another accused, Swapna Suresh, worked at the consulate-general’s office. Later, the state government had appointed Suresh as marketing liaison officer of the Space Park project under the IT Department’s Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited. Her contract was terminated after the allegations surfaced.

On July 22, the Enforcement Directorate filed a money laundering complaint in the case. The Enforcement Case Information Report, equivalent to a first information report, will enable the directorate to attach the properties of the accused.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 16, Vijayan said that the agencies are “conducting fishing and roving enquiries to find out whether there is any chance to allege any offence in a situation where the agencies have not been able to find anything specific against the state government”. The chief minister said that the investigation was against the interest of a “co-operative federal spirit”.