11 May 2009, ET Bureau
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Former Kerala PWD minister P J Joseph was on Monday acquitted in a case of allegedly misbehaving with a woman passenger on a Chennai-Kochi flight in 2006.
The Sriperumbudur magistrate court’s verdict to acquit Mr Joseph has opened the possibility of the Kerala Congress (J) leader making a re-entry into the V S Achuthanandan government.
T U Kuruvilla, who had replaced Mr Joseph when he quit as minister following the allegation of misbehaviour, had himself got entangled in a land scam, which led to a third leader from Kerala Congress (J), Mons Joseph, taking over as PWD minister.
Shortly after the verdict, Mons Joseph declared that he would be happy to vacate his post for P J Joseph. Mr Joseph, who decided on a pilgrimage to Velankanni, has not declared his intentions about a return to the ministry.
The allegation against Mr Joseph was that he had misbehaved with a woman passenger, Lakshmi Gopakukmar, on a Kingfisher flight from Chennai to Kochi, an allegation Mr Joseph stoutly denied. The issue acquired importance as the state government entrusted police IG B Sandhya to submit a report about the incident, which then led to the resignation of Mr Joseph.
Irrespective of whether Mr Joseph returns to the ministry, the verdict is expected to give a boost to the Kerala Congress (J), which had been hit by a series of setbacks, including the resignations of Mr Joseph and Mr Kuruvilla in quick succession.
In recent times, Kerala Congress (J) leader P C Thomas had been making unsettling comments about the manner in which the party is functioning. In response to the verdict today, Mr Thomas has suggested Mr Joseph’s return to the cabinet.
Chief minister V S Achuthanandan and Left Democratic Front convenor Vaikom Viswan said Joseph’s return had to be decided by the party and the LDF.