Kochi | In more trouble for Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani, the High Court today cleared the decks for further investigation against him in the bar bribery case, observing that common man should not feel that no probe is conducted when the accused is a minister. Upholding the order of Vigilance Court for further probe, the court said, Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion. An FIR has been filed in the case against Mani.
Justice B Kemal Pasha, while passing the order on a petition by Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau seeking a stay on the Vigilance Court order for further probe, observed that common man cannot have a feeling that no investigation has been conducted when the accused is a minister.
The court also wanted to know why the government was worried about the investigation when the matter concerned was about public money. Common man should have faith in the system, it said. The verdict, dictated in an open court, also witnessed dramatic moments when Justice Pasha remarked that there were circumstances leading to show that there was payment of illegal gratification.
At this juncture, senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Kapil Sibal, representing the Vigilance department, and State Advocate General K P Dandapani, stood up and strongly opposed the remark after which the references were deleted from the final order. The proceedings, which began at 10.15 am, continued till 2 pm without lunch break.
The court also expunged certain adverse remarks against Vigilance Director Vinson M Paul made by the special court. While accepting that the Director had certain powers to supervise the probe, the judge came down on the official saying he seems to have acted solely on the basis of legal opinion received from the two Supreme Court lawyers.
The Vigilance Director did not examine materials and evidences collected by the investigating officer. On the other hand, the Director relied on legal advice, the Court said. Vigilance Director had the power to order further probe which he did not exercise, the court noted.
The Vigilance Court in Thiruvananthapuram had on October 29 while ordering further probe into the bar bribery case against Mani, observed that there are sufficient materials for making out a prima facie case.
Vigilance Court Special Judge John K Illekadan had passed the order for further investigation while rejecting the final report of the Vigilance and Anti-corruption Bureau to close the case against Mani.
An FIR had been filed against Mani last year after a quick verification by the Vigilance department on the charges by Kerala State Bar Hotel Owners’ Association working President Biju Ramesh that the Minister had accepted Rs one crore as bribe for renewal of licences to more than 470 Indian Made Foreign Liquor bars in the state.
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