Bar bribery scam rocks Kerala Assembly

Thursday, Jul 9, 2015,22:22 IST By metrovaartha A A A

Thiruvananthapuram | The bar bribery scam today rocked the Kerala assembly with the CPI(M)-led LDF opposition demanding re-investigation of the case, saying the vigilance report which gave a clean chit to Finance Minister K M Mani was a farce. The opposition members staged a sit-in protest in the House leading to the adjournment of the session.
CPI(M) veteran V S Achutanandan, on whose complaint the case was registered, made it clear that the opposition would continue its agitation inside and outside the House to expose the UDF government’s corruption. The nonagenarian leader also demanded re-investigation as the probe by the Vigilance Department was a farce. After trooping into the well, some of the protesting members squatted on the floor, while some others stood with a banner demanding Mani’s resignation.
Some opposition members tore off some documents in their hands and threw it in the House. Speaker N Sakthan repeatedly asked the members to abstain from creating a scene and return to their seats after which he rushed through other business of the day. Replying to the notice, Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said the government was unable to go into the merit of the report as the matter was subjudice and pending before the court.
The Vigilance has conducted a fair and impartial inquiry into the case. The agency filed its final report after a detailed investigation of seven months by eliciting evidence from various persons directly or indirectly involved in the issue, he said, adding, let the court decide on the matter. On the Opposition’s charge that the Vigilance inqiry was a mere farce, he said the probe was conducted in a scientific manner including using polygraph tests.
The minister said it was a usual practice for investigating agencies to seek legal advise before filing a final report and it was not to help Mani.
Seeking notice for the motion K Suresh Kurup of CPI(M) alleged that the Vigilance report exonerating Mani was a well-scripted play under the leadership of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. The UDF government was showing special consideration to Mani though there was enough evidence before the investigating officer to file the chargesheet, he claimed.
Though the investigation officer had taken depositions from over 390 persons, the final report was prepared based on the statements of only two or three witnesses, he alleged and wanted to know whether Mani was questioned as there was nothing in the report in this regard.
The Vigilance has already filed a closure report in the case before the Enquiry Commission Special Judge here, holding that there was no evidence to frame a chargesheet against Mani, against whom an FIR had been registered in December last. The case against Mani, who is Kerala Congress(M) supremo, was registered on the basis of a charge by Kerala state Bar Hotel Owners’ Association working president Biju Ramesh, after Achutanandan filed a complaint before the Vigilance seeking a probe.
After a quick verification, Vigilance and Anti-corruption Bureau had registered an FIR in the case in December last. The allegation was that Mani had demanded Rs 5 crore and received Rs 1 crore from the Association for renewal of licence to 470 bars between March 20 and April 2 last year.
The Opposition had been on a warpath demanding Mani’s resignation since the scam broke in November 2014. The assembly also witnessed unprecedented violence over the issue when LDF members tried to prevent Mani from presenting the budget on March 13.