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Kerala CM refutes removal of minister involved in bar scam case

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Thrissur: A special vigilance court on Thursday quashed a clean chit given to state Finance Minister K.M. Mani by the vigilance department to Mani in the bar scam case. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy refuted the demands of opposition leaders to remove him from the cabinet.
“Even as we respect the court verdict, there is no need for Mani to step down. Mani has done no wrong. A vigilance court is not the last word in judiciary,” Chandy told reporters here.

“Mani has not accepted a bribe. If one reads today’s (Friday’s) newspapers, every report appears to have come to its own conclusions. In no way will Mani be asked to resign,” he said.

The court order came on seven petitions that sought further probe into the case. Last October, bar owner Biju Ramesh claimed that Mani was given Rs.1 crore as bribe by the Kerala Bar Owners’ Association to reopen 418 bars shut down in the state under a new excise policy.

Following a letter to the vigilance director, the Kerala government ordered a probe against Mani. A case was later registered, naming Mani as the main accused.

After seven months of investigations, the vigilance department allegedly did not find enough evidence against Mani and filed a closure report in court.

Asked if vested interests were behind the bar scam case, Chandy said he would not say anything about which he was not sure. “But I can say one thing that a lot of people are upset over my government’s liquor policy,” the chief minister said.

With civic polls scheduled for November 2 and 5, the Left opposition on Friday stepped up its attack on Mani.

“Mani has no moral right to continue and should step down,” said Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan.

“He should not use public money to fight this case again,” demanded leader of the opposition V.S. Achuthanandan.

On the other hand, Mani told reporters in his hometown Pala in Kottayam that he had done no wrong.

“The Supreme Court rulings in bribery cases are very clear. Nothing has been proved with regard to me demanding money. I am not such a person,” he said.

Former defence minister A.K. Antony wanted the law to take its own course while state Congress president V.M. Sudheeran said the issue would be taken up in the people’s court in the coming local body elections.

(IANS)

 

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Bar Scam: Excise Minister takes back resignation

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Thiruvananthapuram: K Babu, Kerala’s Excise Minister, who had resigned, took back his resignation on Sunday. A court had ordered a case against him for allegedly accepting a Rs 50 lakh bribe to permit bars to continue to function.

The opposition CPI-M termed it a “perfectly scripted act” by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

Babu got a reprieve on Thursday when the Kerala High Courtput on hold the lower court directive.

The United Democratic Front (UDF) leadership also asked former Finance Minister K M Mani, who quit in November last year over an allegation that he took a bribe from bar owners to reopen closed bars, to return as he too got a favourable order from the High Court.

However, Mani said he was “in no hurry to return”.

Talking to reporters in Kochi, Babu said “I became an MLA on a Congress ticket and then became a Minister in the UDF government headed by Oommen Chandyin 2011.

“As soon as my name surfaced in the Thrissur vigilance court about a baseless bribery allegation, without even waiting to read the judgment, I put in my papers and vacated my official residence and returned my official car.

“I also attended a farewell given to me by my staff, but today (Saturday), my party and the UDF said the situation that prevailed during my resignation no longer exists, hence I am taking back my resignation, because that’s what my party and the UDF wants,” Babu said.

Babu resigned on January 23, soon after the vigilance court ordered a case to be registered against him after the vigilance department asked for a month’s time to submit a verification report.

Whistleblower bar owner Biju Ramesh had earlier filed a complaint that he gave Babu Rs 50 lakh as bribe to permit bars to continue to function.

Earlier this week, on Babu’s petition, the High Court not only suspended the Thrissur vigilance court order for two months but also pointed out that the lower court appeared to be in a hurry, as the case was also being heard in the High Court.

Babu was forced to reconsider his decision at a leadership meeting of the UDF held at Chandy’s official residence on Saturday.

The UDF leadership meeting also asked Mani to return, but he refused.

“I am thankful to the UDF for reposing absolute faith in me, but at the moment, I am in no hurry to return. I will discuss this new request in my party,” Mani told reporters in Kottayam.

CPI-M state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said what people were seeing was a “perfectly scripted act” by Chandy.

“He knows that he (Chandy) is tainted, so he wants Babu to return. The High Court has not exonerated either of them, it has only stayed the lower court’s order for two months,” said Balakrishnan.

The bar scam first surfaced in October 2014 when Ramesh alleged that the then Finance Minister Mani was given Rs 1 crore as bribe by Kerala’s bar owners to facilitate reopening of the 418 closed bars in the state. Later, he alleged Babu too had taken a bribe.(IANS)

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