Tamil Nadu minister resigns over phone tapping row

Tamil Nadu Social Welfare Minister Dr Poongothai Aladi Aruna tendered her resignation from the state Cabinet on Wednesday, two days after the transcripts of her conversation with a top Vigilance official, pleading on behalf of her corrupt relative were published in the media.

Chief Minister Karunanidhi is yet to accept the resignation, though he told the Assembly that he was ashamed by her action.

According to the transcript, Poongothai asked the DVAC to be lenient towards her relative Jawahar, an assistant engineer with the state electricity board, who was caught accepting bribe.

In her reaction, the minister admitted that the voice was indeed hers, and added that she was enquiring about the status of the case and not "pressurising" the officer.

The transcripts were given to the media by the Janata Party on Monday.

When AIADMK leader O Panneerselvam raised the issue on Wednesday in the Assembly, the Chief Minister said, "The matter is under consideration, I have not taken any decision." Karunanidhi further said the CID would look into the matter.

Earlier, the transcripts of conversations between the Chief Secretary and DVAC regarding a disproportionate wealth case against Opposition Leader and AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa were also published, as also the list of important persons whose phone lines were being tapped. The list had an embarrassing collection of names, from politicians, both opposition and allies, and bureaucrats to educationists and journalists.

The tapping controversy is now under investigation by a commission headed by a retired High Court justice, which may also probe the latest one.

The first victim of tapping, Poongothai, a medical doctor, is a first time minister. Her father Aladi Aruna was a former DMK minister, who was hacked to death by a gang in 2004. Though he was sidelined in the party before his murder after he reportedly approached the BJP on being denied a ticket in the last general elections, Poongothai, a practising doctor then, was included in the Cabinet during the formation of the DPA Government. She has been involved in taking several steps for the welfare of transgenders including issuing ID cards and creating a database.

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