Kochi | The Kerala High Court dismissed a petition by former finance minister K M Mani seeking quashing of a criminal case registered against him by Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) and directed the agency to probe it with “open eyes and open ears”.
Earlier, the bureau had filed an FIR in a court charging him with giving tax exemptions to poultry traders and an ayurvedic medicine manufacturer abusing his position as the then finance minister in the previous UDF government.
It had submitted the FIR in the Vigilance Court at Muvattupuzha following a ‘quick verification’ undertaken by it on a petition filed by an advocate.
In his petition, the advocate Nobel Mathew had alleged that Mani gave illegal tax concessions to poultry traders and ayurveda medicine manufacturers during his stint as the state finance minister.
Challenging the VACB move, Mani had approached the high court.
The state government had strongly opposed the application filed by Mani and justified the vigilance probe.
In his order dismissing Mani’s plea, Justice B Kemal Pasha said, “Further probe is required and at this stage no interference is warranted.
“The investigation should go on,” the judge said.
“From all these, I come to the conclusion that these matters have to be investigated. There is absolutely nothing to stall the investigation. The matter has to be properly investigated by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau with open eyes, with open ears, and with an open heart,” the judge added.
In its report filed before the Muvattupuzha court, the agency had said the quick verification revealed Mani had abused his official position as a public servant in allegedly favouring one Thomson group “in the matter of demand of penalty for tax evasion”.
The FIR had also charged Mani with abusing his official position and without any authority ordering a stay on proceedings to recover Rs 65 crore from poultry dealers and favouring them by hatching a criminal conspiracy.
It had said the quick verification had revealed that Mani as then finance minister gave retrospective effect to the reduction of tax on ayurvedic cosmetic products from 12.5 per cent to four per cent.