Kerala court trashes clean chit to Mani, orders fresh probe

Thiruvananthapuram: The Special Vigilance Court here on Thursday quashed the clean chit the vigilance department gave to state Finance Minister K.M. Mani in the alleged bar scam and asked for a further probe.

Reacting to the verdict, Mani welcomed further probe into the case.

“I have always wanted the truth to come out and now I am happy that the court has asked for a further probe and let the final verdict come. I always wanted this because, if the court had not asked for a further probe, then there could have risen other arguments,” said Mani.

The court issued the order after looking into seven petitions filed for a further probe.

The case began last October when bar owner Biju Ramesh claimed that Mani was given Rs.1 crore as bribe by the Kerala Bar Owners’ Association to reopen a total of 418 bars that were shut down in the state under the new excise policy.

Following a letter to the vigilance director, the Kerala government ordered a probe against Mani and following a quick verification, a case was registered naming Mani as the first accused.

After seven months of probe, the vigilance department found that there was not enough evidence against Mani and it filed the closure report.

With the local body polls to be held on November 2 and 5, as soon as the vigilance court direction came top Left opposition leaders, including former chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan and CPI-M state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, asked Mani to quit. Balakrishnan also demanded Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s resignation.

“In no way I am going to step down because there have been precedents of even chief minister and ministers remaining in office. So, we will wait for the final report,” said Mani.

Following the court direction for re-investigation of the case against Mani, Vigilance director Vinson M. Paul, a director general of police rank officer who gave the finance minister a clean chit, informed the media here that he is proceeding on leave.

“I am going on leave for a while, for which I am applying to the government. There is no feeling of guilt and it’s not because of that I am going on leave. With regards to the case, I have only followed the procedures,” said Paul.