Setback for Pinarayi as HC says let CBI probe into Life Mission continue
Kochi, October 1, 2020
Let the CBI probe continue, was the statement that came from the Kerala High Court on Thursday after Life Mission moved the court to plead for the quashing of an "illegal" FIR registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation over its housing project at Thrissur.
With this, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has suffered yet another blow in his attempts to show everything in his pet project -- Life Mission -- as normal and transparent, despite vociferous allegations of corruption in the project by the opposition Congress and the BJP.
It was on Wednesday that the state government, after taking advice on the matter from legal brains, who pointed out that the FIR could be quashed as it was illegal and that the government had no role in the matter, gave the nod for Life Mission to file this petition.
Moving the petition, Life Mission which brought in a senior counsel from the apex court, pointed out that this is a politically motivated probe and the state government has no role in this.
But the court which not only did not intervene in the petition, directed Life Mission to cooperate with the probe and said let the CBI investigation continue. It posted the case for further hearing on October 8.
Life Mission CEO U V Jose, a senior IAS officer, has been summoned to appear before the CBI with all the relevant documents on October 5.
The Mission's contention is that the agreement for the construction was inked between UAE-based charity Red Crescent, which is funding the construction at Wadakkancherry in Thrissur district, and Unitech Builders. The state has no role and hence the FIR is illegal and should be quashed.
Earlier this week, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala warned of legal and political steps against any move by the Vijayan government to bring an ordinance to keep the CBI out of the probe.
Reacting to the turn of events in the high court on Thursday, Chennithala said it is a setback for the Vijayan government in its attempt to keep the corruption in this project under wraps.
"Now that the attempt to run away from the CBI probe has failed, the Vijayan government should withdraw the case and cooperate with the CBI. The state government is spending a huge amount of money to bring in counsel from outside the state and this is happening when the state is precariously placed as far as its finances are concerned. What all fail to understand is, the Vijayan government is saying there is no corruption at all and if so, then why are they trying to run away from the ongoing CBI probe," asked Chennithala.
The Life Mission project, a pet project of Vijayan ever since he assumed the CM's office in 2016, was floated to build houses for the homeless and landless, using funds raised through sponsorships. The state's role was limited to only providing the land.
The project, however, ran into trouble when Anil Akkara, a Congress legislator, first raised questions about alleged wrongdoings in a building project in his Wadakkancherry constituency, for which funds came from Red Crescent.
The project was routed through the UAE Consulate, where smuggling case main accused Swapna Suresh and PS Sarith earlier worked. It turned murkier when news surfaced that a son of Industries Minister E P Jayarajan was also close to Swapna.
Vijayan's media adviser John Brittas had claimed that Rs 4.25 crore in commission was paid in the project, a stand endorsed by two state Ministers.
The CBI has already questioned Santhosh Eapen, whose company was given the contract to build the houses.
Vijayan is Life Mission Chairman while his trusted aide and Local Self-Government Minister A C Moideen is the Vice-Chairman. Incidentally, the project MoU was inked in Vijayan's office.