Kochi | Alleging that the Vigilance quick verification against Finance Minister K M Mani was a ‘farce’, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) today moved the Kerala High Court, seeking to draw up an FIR and register crime against the minister, who is at the centre of a bar bribe row. The opposition front, which put pressure on the government in the assembly today seeking Mani’s resignation, also sought Constitution of a SIT to probe the case and wanted court to monitor it.
According to the petitioner, the quick verification done by the Vigilance was a ‘farce’. Refusal to forward the report within the prescribed time amounts to abdication of statutory duties, LDF convener Vaikom Vishwam stated. The government’s attempt to register crime on the charges made by Kerala Bar owners Association’s working president Biju Ramesh under the guise of preliminary enquiry is ‘highly deplorable’, it was stated.
The petition is likely to come up before a division bench tomorrow. Meanwhile, Vigilance filed a statement in the PIL by CPI MLA V S Sunil Kumar, seeking similar relief to the effect that the delay on the part of crucial witnesses to turn up for examination was causing delay in completion of the enquiry. Vigilance Deputy Superintendent of Police S Suresh Kumar also assured the court that the enquiry would be completed shortly and a report submitted to Superintendent of Police, Thiruvananthapuram and the Director, Vigilance.
It was also stated that during the enquiry, statements of 26 persons were recorded, notices were repeatedly issued to state president and other office bearers of the Kerala Bar hotels association. But they had so far failed to turn up before enquiry officials, it was submitted. It was further alleged that the office bearers requested the enquiry officer for a convenient date after Nov 28 and thereafter sought 30 days more time.
Biju Ramesh had alleged that Mani had taken Rs one crore from owners and demanded Rs five crore on the promise of reopening 418 closed bars. The UDF Government a few months ago had ordered closure of all bars, except those attached to fivestar hotels as part of its move to take the state to total prohibition in 10 years.
However, the High Court permitted hotels in four star and heritage category also to operate bars. Earlier Government had declined to renew licenses of 418 bars for lack of required facilities.
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