Bar licence case: BJP bats for further probe

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday sought to punch holes in the Vigilance report absolving former Finance Minister K.M. Mani of all guilt in the bar licence bribery case.

Noble Mathew, a State committee member of the party, one of the intervener in the protracted legal dispute, told an anti-corruption court here that the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) had done nothing to ferret out the facts in the case.

Bid to weaken evidence

Instead, it had attempted to systematically weaken and disregard evidence available on record unearthed by S. Sukeshan, the officer who investigated the politically sensitive case first.

He told Inquiry Commissioner and Special Judge, Vigilance, that the agency had filed three reports exonerating Mr. Mani.

The court threw out two and ordered the VACB to investigate the case further. The third report submitted by the agency also lacked merit. It was a whitewash job to save Mr. Mani again.

Mr. Noble argued that the VACB had made no further inquiry. It did not search Mr. Mani’s house.

It had not investigated the charge that the Kerala Bar Hotels’ Association (KBHA) had asked its members to contribute to a “legal fund,” a polite term for mustering funds to bribe officials.

An analysis of cell phone location by Mr. Sukeshan had revealed the presence of KBHA officials, the alleged bribe givers, near the house of Mr. Mani on three days in March 2014.

The further inquiry appeared to have bypassed the finding.

The VACB discharge report had not explained why Mr. Mani batted for the restoration of bar licences at a Cabinet meeting later in April. It did not probe the money trail in the case.

Mr. Noble said the VACB had callously stated that the audio recordings submitted as evidence by KBHA leader Biju Ramesh, the de-factor complainant, had been tampered with and hence lacked evidentiary value.

The court will hear the case again on August 6.

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