Monday March 18, 2019
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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.



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Bar Scam: Excise Minister takes back resignation


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)