CBI probe to continue in Life Mission scam: Kerala HC
Thiruvananthapuram, January 12, 2021
The Kerala High Court on Tuesday dismissed pleas filed by the state government in the Life Mission scam and said that an ongoing CBI probe should continue into the case involving high government officers and contractors.
The case involves alleged violation of foreign contribution regulations in the Kerala government's flagship Life Mission project intended to provide homes for the poor who lost their homes during the devastating floods in 2018.
Kerala government counsel and Supreme Court's Senior Advocate K K Vishwanathan argued in the court of Justice P Somarajan that a CBI probe could not be carried out in the case as statutory bodies are exempted from the provisions of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.
The state's lawyer argued that the go-ahead to the CBI probe would lead to a policy paralysis and the High Court should prevent it.
On the other hand, CBI counsel Shasthamangalam Ajithkumar argued that the project memorandum of understanding (MoU) was not very specific and it could be believed to be an eyewash.
The CBI argued that private company Unitac, carrying out construction on behalf of a Kerala government body Life Mission, did not get the contract through a tender.
Ajithkumar said that the project entailed construction of 97 apartments and a health centre, claiming that gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh and other co-accused held talks with Unitac and fixed a commission of 30 per cent of the project cost -- 20 per cent to a UAE official and 10 per cent to Swapna Suresh and other co-accused for approvals and other file movements.
The CBI claimed that CM's then Principal Secretary M Sivasankar had met Unitac owner Santhosh Eapen at the IAS officer's chamber along with Swapna Suresh and assured of all support. Life Mission Chief Executive Office UV Jose was also allegedly present at Sivasankar's office.
The CBI counsel argued that since senior government officials were involved in the scam, a full-fledged inquiry by the central agency was necessary, which the court allowed.