Thiruvanthapuram | Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani was today booked by he Vigilance and Anti Corruption Bureau in connection with the bar bribe scam that had rocked the Congress-led UDF government even as the minister ruled out resigning from the post, saying he would prove his innocence.
Taking cognizance of the allegation leveled by a leading hotelier that Mani was given Rs one crore by bar owners for a favourable decision in allowing them to operate bars, VACB filed an FIR in a special Vigilance Court here after a preliminary inquiry, VACB sources said.
Unruffled by the development, 81-year-old Mani said he would not resign simply because a case had been registered and was confident of proving his ‘innocence’. Case against Mani under relevant sections of Prevention of Corruption Act was registered on the basis of statements given by some of those questioned by investigators as part of quick verification into the allegation made over a month ago.
Leaders of the opposition LDF immediately demanded Mani’s resignation holding that this was the first instance of an FIR being filed against a Minister on an allegation pertaining to his current term. Rejecting the demand for Mani’s resignation, Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said filing of an FIR did not mean that the Minister was guilty.
The Vigilance has only decided to file an FIR in the light of a Supreme Court direction regarding procedures to be followed in such cases, Chennithala told reporters. Mani, in New Delhi to attend a conference of state Finance Ministers convened by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, said he was not going to step down simply because a case had been registered.
Law will take its course. This allegation is totally baseless. The investigation will bring out the truth, Mani told reporters. According to VACB, a special investigation team will be formed for a detailed investigation in the case, which pertains to allegation leveled by Biju Ramesh, Working President of Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association.
The scam rattled the Oommen Chandy government with the LDF opposition latching on to the charges. Under pressure, the Government then ordered a quick verification to ascertain whether there was sufficient ground for a full-fledged probe. The probe was ordered based on a letter given by Opposition Leader V S Achuthanandan.
VACB top brass had received legal advice that an FIR should be registered within 45 days of starting the preliminary probe in such cases. A seasoned player in Kerala politics, Mani has been a Minister in most of the UDF governments since 1980s. His party KC(M) is the third largest component in the UDF with a sizable following in the Central Travancore region, especially among the Christian community.
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