Friday, August 30, 2013

No CBI probe into ice cream parlour sex case

KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Friday dismissed the petition of Leader of Opposition VS Achuthanandan seeking a CBI probe in ice-cream parlour sex case allegedly involving Industries Minister P K Kunhalikutty.

Achuthanandan had approached the high court stating that the investigation in the case following fresh disclosures made by KA Rauf, a close relative of Kunhalikutty, in 2011, was not done in the right manner and hence only a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe could bring out the truth.

Chief Justice Manjula Chellur, while dismissing Achuthanandan's plea, however, noted that even though the court was not going into the details of the investigation, from what had been pointed out on the lapses in the probe, it appeared to be grave and the petitioner could approach the magistrate's court if he had any grievance.

This is the second time in nearly two years that Achuthanandan's petition seeking a CBI probe has been dismissed, the first being on Sep 27, 2011.

The new disclosures by Rauf had come a few months ahead of the April 2011 assembly polls and Achuthanandan, as the then chief minister, had ordered a fresh probe by a senior police officer.

The alleged sex racket in early 1990s involved an ice-cream parlour in Kozhikode as its base and was flagged the "ice cream parlour sex case" by the media.

Since then, the case has been vigorously taken up by Achuthanandan and it was dismissed by the Supreme Court, which gave a clean chit to Kunhalikutty, an Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leader.

Eight killed in bus-autorikshaw collision


MALAPPURAM: Eight people, including four children and two women, were killed in a bus-autorikshaw collision at Mukkola near Tanur in Malappuram district on Friday.

They have been identified as Kabir (25), Arshak (22), Saheera (45), Arifa (42), her daughter Nasla (7), and Sahira’s three children--Thabshira (3), Thabshir (7) and Ansar (1) were also killed in the accident.

The bus was set ablaze by angry mob. The driver and conductor of the bus fled the place,

Solar scam: Kerala HC refuses to spare sitting judge

KOCHI: The Kerala High court has informed the state government that it cannot spare a sitting judge to conduct probe into the solar scam that brought Chief Minister Oommen Chandy's office under a cloud and rocked the UDF government for the past two months.

The decision in this regard taken by a five-member administrative committee of the court, chaired by Chief Justice Manjula Chellur, was today conveyed to the State Chief Secretary E K Bharath Bhushan, CM's office sources said.

Under persistent demand from LDF opposition, the cabinet had earlier this month decided to hold a judicial probe into the scam and sought the services of a sitting judge.

The decision to hold a judicial probe was ordered by the Government at the height of the opposition campaign which saw thousands of LDF workers laying siege to the secretariat here demanding Chandy's resignation. The opposition called of the 'siege' after the probe was announced.

However, even after that both sides have been engaged in a heated debate over the issue of inclusion of CM's office in the ambit of the probe.

"If the government made a renewed plea to the High Court it is still possible to get the services of a sitting judge. But the government's sincerity in the matter is suspect," CPI(M) politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said.

State Home Minister Thiruvanchur Radkhakrishnan said the Government was firm on conducting a judicial probe but the next step would be decided by the cabinet.

The scam related to cheating people of huge sums by the arrested accused Biju Radhakrishnan and Saritha Nair by offering solar energy solutions. A special investigation team probing the case has completed its probe.

The case assumed a serious political dimension with the arrest of Tenny Joppan, a Personal Assistant in the Chief Minister's office, for his alleged links with the accused.

As a spin-off, former Director of Public Relations Department A Firoz and tele-actress and danseuse Shalu Menon were also arrested in a related case. Shalu and Joppan were released on bail earlier this week.

LDF has been alleging that such a huge scam would not have taken place without the collusion of the Chief Minister.

Railways ordered to pay Rs 4 lakh compensation

KOCHI: The Railway Claims Tribunal has awarded a Rs four lakh compensation to the parents of a seven-year-old girl who died after she fell from the emergency window of a Kerala-bound train from Delhi at Palakkad last year.

The girl, Jiya Ann George, was playing with her brother in the S11 compartment when she accidentally fell off the Kerala Express through the open emergency window on the morning of December 26 last. Her father, who was also travelling with them, rushed her to a hospital in an autorickshaw about 18 km away but could not save her life.

The girl was visiting her mother, a nurse doing her post-graduation at Kottayam, for the New Year.

The Tribunal dismissed the railway's plea that the mishap had occurred due to the negligence of the child's father who was asleep when the incident took place, Tribunal sources said today.

The Tribunal's judicial member said the emergency window has to be opened only in emergency situations to save someone's life. Railways had failed to ensure the safety and security of the passenger, the Tribunal held.

The amount has to be paid within 60 days with 8 per cent interest from April 10 when the application for compensation was filed, sources said.

Malappuram passport officer shifted

MALAPPURAM: The Malappuram Passport Officer, Abdul Rasheed K, who was named as an accused in a corruption case by CBI for alleged irregularities in issuing passports, was on Friday removed from the post.

Rasheed, an officer in the rank of DYSP with Kerala police, was on two-year deputation as passport officer and his deputation period ended on August 4. He took charge as passport officer on August 4, 2011.

Rasheed was Friday sent back to his parent department of Kerala Police.

According to official sources, he had asked for one more year extension, which was rejected by the Union Ministry of External Affairs.

There were allegations against Rasheed in connection with the fake passports issued through Malappuram passport office and alleged human trafficking through Kozhikode airport. CBI had conducted raids in the office and at his house in connection with the case.

State Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan had also demanded action against Rasheed, who is related to a senior leader of Indian Union Muslim League, the second largest partner in the Congress-led ruling UDF in Kerala.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Child marriage: Three including mother in custody

KOZHIKODE: Three persons including the mother of the Arab was taken into custody following a complaint by a 17-year-old girl who was married off to the Arab. They were taken into custody for questioning in connection with the incident.

The police are questioning the Arab’s mother Sulaika, girl’s stepfather and her cousin brother. Meantime, the police will record the statement of the girl today.

The police also took the statement of the orphanage office bearers who organised the wedding.

Gold worth Rs 1.5 crores seized

NEDUMBASSERY: Five kilograms of gold was seized from Kochi International Airport. The gold was noticed under the seat during an inspection on the Jet Airways before proceeding to Chennai. An investigation conducted arrested Habeer, native of Tamil Nadu, and is questioning him.

The flight from Sharjah landed at the airport at 5.45 am Wednesday morning. On investigation it has been noticed that the gold concealed under the seat was brought to take it to Chennai. It was easy to smuggle the stuff as the customs authorities are not checking passengers properly at the international airport.

Dr Anil, customs deputy commissioner, revealed that the gold is worth Rs 1.5 crores. Many passengers proceeding to Chennai are suspected to be involved in the incident.

HC asks CBI director to file statement

KOCHI: The Kerala High court on Tuesday asked CBI Director Ranjit Sinha to file a statement on a petition seeking to remove CBI Additional SP, Nandakumaran Nair, from investigating major cases in the backdrop of various courts passing adverse remarks against the official.

Justice P R Ramachandran Menon also directed Nair to file statement answering allegations against him.

The court issued the directions on a petition filed by T P Nandakumar, editor of a crime magazine, complaining that in view of the adverse remarks by various courts against the Additional SP, he was not competent to carry out investigation of CBI cases.

HC asks CBI director to file statement


KOCHI: The Kerala High court on Tuesday asked CBI Director Ranjit Sinha to file a statement on a petition seeking to remove CBI Additional SP, Nandakumaran Nair, from investigating major cases in the backdrop of various courts passing adverse remarks against the official.

Justice P R Ramachandran Menon also directed Nair to file statement answering allegations against him.

The court issued the directions on a petition filed by T P Nandakumar, editor of a crime magazine, complaining that in view of the adverse remarks by various courts against the Additional SP, he was not competent to carry out investigation of CBI cases.

AG opposes impleadment of telephone service providers

KOCHI: The Kerala Government on Tuesday opposed the impleadment of telephone service providers in a case relating to the seizure of telephone records of Salim Raj, accused in solar scam case and former gunman of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

A Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice K Vinodchandran, had on August 6 stayed the single judge's order of seizure of telephone records of Salim Raj.

The single judge had issued an interim order on two petitions seeking an investigation by a special team or the CBI into two land deal cases in which Salim Raj is allegedly involved. The order was challenged by the state government on an appeal.

When the matter came up Tuesday, one of the respondents Premchand R Nair filed an appeal seeking to implead the mobile service providers.

Advocate General, K P Dandapani opposed the petition, which was posted by the bench to next week.

Earlier, one of the reasons for staying the seizure order was the non-impleading of service providers.

Nobody entrusted anyone for mediatory talks: Chennithala

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Nobody was entrusted for mediatory talks with the LDF in connection with the judicial probe in the solar case, said KPCC chief Ramesh Chennithala. Talking to the media, Chennithala said that he came to know about it from the media.

Chennithala said the opposition was not willing to hold talks on the terms of reference.  They should be willing to hold talks with us, he said.

On chief whip P C George’s revelation that Chief Minister Oommen Chandy tried to sabotage the deputy chiefministership of Chennithala by making Speaker G Karthikeyan, is a new thing for him.

News portals, social websites banned in Secretariat

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The government has imposed a ban on noted news portals and social networking sites in the Secretariat. But no ban has been imposed on the websites of Congress mouthpiece Veekshanam and League mouthpiece Chandrika.

Social networking sites like Facebook are one among those banned. The .government had suspended three persons for commenting and liking a statement on Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in the Facebook.  The three are still under suspension.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mani criticizes Aryadan at cabinet meet

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Finance Minister K M Mani harshly criticized Minister Aryadan Muhammed at the cabinet meet. Mani got irritated at Aryadan’s statement that even after the financial situation of the state is bad, some exaggerate that everything is okay.  

K M Mani openly said that as a finance minister he is there to opine on the financial situation of the state. Mani said a small crisis is there but there is no need of an anxiety. The statement of Aryadan made at an open venue has turned into a stick for the opposition to use against the government, he said.

Aryadan directly said the financial situation of the state is bad and forgetting it some exaggerate there is nothing wrong in the economy. Aryadan made the statement indirectly hinting at Finance Minister K M Mani.  The KSRTC and the KSEB are incurring loss to the government, said Mani.

Police registers case in Arabikalyanam

KOZHIKODE: The police Monday registered a case on the incident where a 17-year-old girl was forced to marry a man from Saudi Arabia. The case was registered after a complaint was lodged by the girl’s mother at the child welfare panel. The human rights panel asked DGP to produce an immediate report on the incident.

The child welfare committee has asked the district probationary officer to submit the report within 24 hours. Meantime, proofs showing that he married the girl after hiding that he is a national from Saudi Arabia are out. 

In her complaint to the committee on Friday, the girl had alleged that the orphanage authorities “pressurised” her to marry the man, who deserted her after honeymooning for 17 days and returned to his country.

The Child Welfare Committee Chairman in Malappuram, Sherrief Ullath said according to the girl the marriage took place on June 13.

The orphanage authorities forced her to marry the Saudi national against her wishes.

The Child Welfare Committee authorities said they had forwarded the girl’s complaint to the police, who has registered cases under Prohibition of Child Marriage Act-2006, the Juvenile Justice Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of the orphanage P P Mohammed Ali denied the allegations by the girl and claimed that the marriage was solemnised with the consent of both the families, for which he has the records.

She had been staying in the orphanage for the last 13 years after her father abandoned the family, Ali said.  Many such cases have been reported in the state in the past also.

Statement of Saritha: HC registrar seeks explanation from addl CJM

KOCHI: The Kerala High Court vigilance registrar sought an explanation from Ernakulam additional CJM N V Raju for delaying to register the statement of Saritha S Nair, accused in the solar case.

The registrar sought an explanation as part of an investigation on the delay in registering the statement.

The registrar also recorded the statement of the woman official who was in the court while hearing the statement of Saritha. She said that she didn’t hear anything. The registrar also seized the court documents at the time of producing Saritha.

SI, civil police officer hacked during raid

MANNAR: A goonda gang hacked a sub inspector and a civil police officer disrupting their mission to seize spirit. Mannar sub inspector S Sreekumar and civil police officer Prathap Chandran sustained injuries in the attack. The incident happened Tuesday morning at 7.45 am.

A six-member team including the sub inspector reached the house of one Rajan of Budhanoor on a secret tip-off, for the raid. Sajesh, the civil police officer, first reached the house for a drink. The mafia identified him and assaulted him brutally. The other members of the team standing outside immediately surrounded the house.

Almost ten persons of the goonda gang came towards the team with swords and seeing it, they had to withdraw from the place.

The two sustained injuries while obstructing the attack. The two were immediately admitted at a private hospital.

Rajan is an accused in many cases including murder. The police have taken two into custody in connection with the incident.

Addl CJM pleads to exempt him from solar case

KOCHI: Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) N V Raju considering economic offences in Ernakulam requested the CJM court to exempt him from hearing the argument in the solar case.

The magistrate’s demand was to exempt till the charge sheet is filed in the case. Raju is considering the economic fraud case against Saritha S Nair, second accused in the solar case.

The high court vigilance wing had yesterday sought an explanation from him for his lapses in recording the statement of Saritha in the case. In the meanwhile, clerk Razimol, native of Ernakulam, who was a witness while Saritha was explaining things to the court, was transferred to Kothamangalam court.

Court denies bail to Madhani, asks to approach SC

BANGALORE: The Karnataka High Court rejected the bail plea of PDP leader Abdul Nazar Madhani, jailed in the Parappana Agrahara jail in the Bangalore blasts case. Rejecting the plea, the court said Madhani can approach the Supreme Court.

The plea was rejected pointing that the case against Madhani is quite serious and it has limitations in granting bail.
Madhani approached the court seeking permission to undergo treatment at his own expense for his health problems. But the Karnataka Government had opposed his bail plea in the court.

Oppn rejects conditions proposed by govt on judicial probe

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The opposition LDF rejected the new conditions proposed by the government for solving the issue in connection with the judicial probe in the solar case. The stand taken by the government is that the office of the chief minister will also be included within the purview of the judicial probe if the opposition ends the strike seeking the resignation of the chief minister. The government through a mediator informed the stand to the opposition.  

Rejecting it, the opposition clarified that they will not go back from their demand. The cabinet meet convened today did not discuss the terms of reference as the opposition rejected the proposal.

No discussion was held on the terms of reference with the allied parties of the UDF. The government decided to take a decision after detailed talks with the allied parties and the Congress.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Its police raj, says Madhani

BANGALORE/KOTTAYAM: What is happening in Karnataka is the police raj, said PDP leader Abdul Nazar Madhani, arrested and jailed in Parappana Agrahara Jail in the Bangalore blasts case. The Congress is behaving rudely than the BJP Government. In a statement released from jail, he said the new case against him is a proof of the police raj.

The Karnataka Government cannot intervene in the bail plea of Madhani, said Home Minister K J George. He said they cannot alter its stand as and when the government changes.

George said the case is before the court. So, the court has to take a decision on his bail plea. The FIR was registered during the tenure of the previous government. The government cannot interfere as the prosecutors argue as per the FIR registered.

The minister said they were ready to examine if a complaint is lodged on treatment denied to Madhani

People aware of everything, says Murali

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The people of the state are aware of everything, said Congress leader K Muraleedharan MLA. All those who have spread light in the solar case has been released from jail, said Murali. Only some small bulbs like Saritha S Nair, second accused in the solar case, is in jail. She will also be released soon, Murali told reporters.

Murali said, “I’m not saying much due to party ban. I don’t agree with all the statements of Chief Whip P C George. But I don’t favour blocking a people’s representative on the way. George should be controlled by his party.”

Charge sheet in solar case is delayed to save CM, says Kodiyeri

THALASSERY: Filing of the charge sheet in the solar case is delayed in order to save the chief minister, said CPI (M) politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. If the charge sheet is filed, the role of the chief minister will be revealed, he said.

There is no relevance in conducting the judicial probe excluding the chief minister and his office. By granting bail to Tenny Joppan and Shalu Menon, it is almost clear that the investigating team is functioning favouring the accused.

‘With rupee down, Kerala remittances could touch $12.5 billion’


THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala’s economy, propped up by diaspora remittances from about two million Malayalees abroad, can expect windfall remittances to touch Rs75,000 crore (Dh49 billion) this financial year which could form an all-time high of nearly 35 per cent of its net state domestic product, migration expert S. Irudayarajan says.

Irudayarajan, head of the Migration Unit of the Centre for Development Studies in the state capital, said if the rupee continues to hover at its present rates against the dollar for another two months, the magic figure of Rs75,000 crore in remittances would be achieved, when preliminary findings of the forthcoming edition of the Kerala Migration Survey (KMS) are out, in April 2014.

The Kerala economy, in the past three decades, has received generous remittances from people from the state who work overseas.

“We did the first KMS in 1998, and it was planned to be done every five years. But we undertook two additional surveys in 2007 on account of the global crisis and another one in 2011. The present survey is all set to start, latest by next month, and the preliminary findings are expected by April 2014,” Irudayarajan said in an interview.

Congress High Command 'worried' as Chandy government reels under scam

NEW DELHI: Congress high command is "worried" over the situation caused by the solar panel scam in Kerala with the opposition unrelenting in its agitation against embattled Chief Minister Oommen Chandy demanding his resignation.

"We are worried over the situation", highly placed party sources said when asked about the developments in Kerala where the controversy over the alleged scam refuses to die down despite the announcement of a judicial probe.

The CPI-M led LDF Opposition in the state has now pressed for bringing Chandy and his office under the ambit of judicial probe. The LDF is insisting that the main focus of the terms and reference of the probe should be the Chief Minister and his office.

Chandy, on the other hand, has accused the opposition of raking up "political demands". He has been saying that the opposition has a political agenda in connection with the judicial probe in the solar case.

Charging the government with "attempting to sabotage" the investigation into the case, the Opposition is alleging that there were proofs to link Chandy and his office with the scam and that there was no point in a judicial probe if the CM's office was excluded.

Meanwhile, a section in the state Congress is also uncomfortable with the developments that have hit the party and the government in the state.

They want the high command to monitor the situation in the state very closely and act as early as possible so that it does not affect the party's prospects in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Senior Congress leader V M Sudheeran had held talks with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi last week to apprise them of issues including the functioning of the UDF government and the party in the state.

Concerned over the developments, both Chandy and KPCC Chief Ramesh Chennithala were summoned by Rahul Gandhi to review the political situation in the state.

Congress president's political secretary Ahmed Patel and AICC General Secretary (in-charge Kerala) Mukul Wasnik were present in the meeting.

The solar panel scam pertains to cheating of many people by accused Biju Radhakrishnan and Saritha Nair, both under arrest, by offering clients solar energy solutions.

They allegedly flaunted their clout with the CM's office to dupe unsuspecting clients of huge sums.

It took a political turn after the arrest of a Personal Assistant of Chandy for his alleged links with the accused. A gunman of the Chief Minister and two other personal staff were also suspended for their alleged association with the fraudsters.

M.K. Kuruvila arrested again


THRISSUR: M.K. Kuruvila, a businessman settled in Bangalore, who had filed a complaint alleging involvement of Chief Minister’s office in the solar scandal, was again arrested on Sunday by the East Police for allegedly swindling money from Ranjan of Pulaykapparambil. Kuruvila who was presented before the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court was granted bail.

Student electrocuted


PANOOR: A student was electrocuted when he came in touch with a broken electric wire lying on the road. He has been identified as Jisil (18), son of Vijayan and Sindhu. The incident happened last night. He was a hotel management student in Kozhikode. Jiniya is his sister.

Some officers at CM’s office under shadow of Solar Case, says HC

KOCHI: Kerala High Court on Friday opined that some officers at Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s office will fall under the shadow of solar case if Sreedharan Nair’s complaint is examined.

Justice S.S. Sateeshchandran said this while issuing the order granting bail to Tenny Joppan, former private secretary of Oommen Chandy and television actor Shalu Menon, both accused in the solar scam.

It is indisputable that there are allegations against politicians and government officials in the solar case. Under such circumstance, the activities of the investigation team without adhering to the legal procedures create suspicion whether justice would be sabotaged, said Justice S.S. Satheeshchandran.

Mass popularity lands VS in Colombia University blog

NEW DELHI: Ask people of Kerala, ‘Who is the most popular political leader in Kerala?’ They would not think twice to articulate the two letters ‘VS’ as its answer. To them, VS is the crowd. VS is the symbol of untiring presence in the battlefield of Kerala politics. It is none other than V.S. Achuthanandan, the present Opposition Leader of Kerala and one of the founding members of CPI (M).

Achuthanandan, who had been the chief minister of Kerala, may not be well-known outside the state. But, his mass popularity within God’s Own Country has landed him in the blog of the world famous Colombia University. (http://baraza.cdrs.columbia.edu/5qacchu/)

The university has published an interview with VS, concentrating on the current social atmosphere of Kerala and the influence of the leader on it. The interview is done by preeminent Economist, Prof. Prabhat Patnaik.

Achuthanandan is described, in the blog, as one of world’s greatest political leaders and the most popular political leader in India. It says “it is difficult to think of any living Communist leader, other than Fidel Castro of course, who enjoys such massive popularity, cutting across party lines.”

A video has also been uploaded, in which Achuthanandan answers five questions.

State’s financial situation bad, says Aryadan

KOCHI: The financial situation of the state is bad, said Minister Aryadan Muhammed. In India, Kerala has the largest revenue deficit. But forgetting all these, some exaggerate there is nothing wrong in the economy. I don’t want to mention anybody’s name now, he said. 

Aryadan made the statement indirectly hinting at Finance Minister K M Mani. 

Showing black flags is the last thing for the opposition in the solar issue.  Black flags are shown to prove the failure of the Secretariat siege, he said.

Karnataka Govt refuses to intervene in Madhani’s bail plea

BANGALORE: The Karnataka Government cannot intervene in the bail plea of Abdul Nazar Madhani, PDP leader, arrested and jailed in Parappana Agrahara Jail in the Bangalore blasts case, said Home Minister K J George. He said they cannot alter its stand as and when the government changes.

George said the case is before the court. So, the court has to take a decision on his bail plea. The FIR was registered during the tenure of the previous government. The government cannot interfere as the prosecutors argue as per the FIR registered.
The minister said that they were ready to examine if a complaint lodged on treatment denied to Madhani.

I’ve faith in judiciary, says Shalu Menon

CHANGANASSERY: The allegations against me in the solar case are under the consideration of the court and I’ve full faith in the judiciary, said serial actress Shalu Menon. I don’t have anything more to say about the case and please don’t disturb me, the actress told reporters.  The actress was released from jail yesterday after obtaining bail from the Kerala High Court. She refused to talk to the media yesterday in court premises.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rahul Gandhi calls upon V.M. Sudheeran to meet

NEW DELHI: The Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi has called upon V.M. Sudheeran to meet him for talks on matters relating to the UDF government in Kerala and the party.

Sudheeran has been informed that he should in New Delhi on Thursday and Friday. Sudheeran promised that he would reach here today (Wednesday).

Sudheeran will hold talks with Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

HC reserves judgement on bail pleas of TennyJoppen, Shalu Menon

KOCHI: Kerala High Court Tuesday reserved its judgement on the bail pleas of solar panel scam accused TennyJoppen, former Private Secretary to Chief Minister OommenChandy and television actress Shalu Menon.

The bail pleas were reserved by justice S.S. Sateeshchandran.

Though the Advocate General K P Dandapani favoured bail to Joppen, the bail application of Shalu Menon was stoutly opposed.

Joppen is in custody since the last 52 days and Shalu for 46 days.

The government informed the court that they have ratified that approval of Special Investigation Team. The total amount of cheating involved was nearly Rs 6.85 crore.

Government also informed that all major decisions like criminal liability of individual, approval of charge etc are taken with the knowledge and approval of SIT, which is headed by Additional DGP, K Hemachandran.

The scam pertains to cheating of investors of crores of rupees by promising solar panel.

CBI rules out accident in school teacher's case

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Almost two years after school teacher Krishna Kumar was badly injured and the Kerala Police concluded it was an accident, the CBI which took up the case has differed and termed it an attack - which the victim's family has been saying from day one.

"I am very happy to hear that the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) has dismissed the findings of the Kerala police that my husband came under attack and it was not an accident as claimed by police," Krishna Kumar's wife Geetha Krishnakumar told the media.

Krishna Kumar was found severely injured near Kottarakara Sep 27, 2011, some 70 km from here, around 10.45 p.m. The highway police first took him to a hospital but he was later moved to the Medical College Hospital here as his condition worsened.

It was initially said that Kumar's rectum was pierced with an iron rod, his genitals crushed and his hips smashed.

However, a medical board report concluded the injuries might have been caused by a vehicle accident and that neither was his rectum pierced by a rod nor were his genitals crushed.

The case raged in the state at the time as Krishna Kumar and his wife taught at a school owned by R. Balakrishna Pillai, a senior ruling front leader and father of then forest minister K.B. Ganesh Kumar.

The issue became a keenly debated subject both inside and outside the floor of the assembly and the Left opposition indirectly alleged influential persons had plotted the attack.

At the time of the attack, Pillai was cooling his heels in a jail here as he was convicted in a corruption case.

After hearing the CBI findings, legislator Ayisha Potty, who defeated Pillai in the 2006 assembly polls, told the media that all who followed the sequence of events knew that it was never an accident at all.

"No scientific investigation was done on how and what had happened to Krishna Kumar and the CBI's findings clearly shows that some 'bigwigs' are behind this episode," said Potty.

Sources close to CBI point out they would go ahead to conduct a lie detector test on a few people who are aware of what happened in this episode. The CBI had called in 50 people connected with the incidents and after a scientific probe concluded it was not an accident.

RBI allows non-bank Islamic finance firm

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has allowed a firm in Kerala to operate as a non-banking financial company (NBFC) that follows Islamic principles - a small step towards developing sharia-compliant finance in the country.

An estimated 177 million Muslims in India, the largest Muslim minority population in the world, are unable to use Islamic banks because laws covering the sector require banking to be based on interest, forbidden in Islam. But some companies, especially in Kerala which has a large Muslim population and a diaspora of workers who remit money back from the Gulf, are nevertheless trying to develop Islamic financial products outside the banking sector. Cheraman Financial Services, based in Kochi, plans to offer leasing and equity-finance products under Islamic principles. It said it had obtained approval to operate from RBI and would follow the Islamic ban on interest; it will not take deposits from customers. "We propose to roll out the products by the end of August," a spokesman for Cheraman, formerly known as Al Barakah Financial Services, said.

He did not elaborate on the design of the products. Instead of interest, Islamic finance uses structures such as asset buy-backs and agency agreements to provide returns to investors. The RBI did not respond to a request for comment on Cheraman's case. But its decision appears to open the door to the possibility of more NBFCs offering Islamic non-interest products in future, even though full-fledged Islamic banks are expected to remain banned. RBI governor Duvvuri Subbarao, who will step down in September, has said Islamic banking is not possible in the country but sharia-compliant products could be delivered through alternative means.

Solar: Oppn to hand over letter to govt tomorrow

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The letter seeking to include the chief minister and his office within the purview of the judicial probe in the solar case is almost ready. The sub panel has given clearance for it. The letter will be handover to the government after the LDF leadership examines it.

Panel member C Divakaran MLA said the sub panel discussed and took a final decision on what all should be included in the terms of reference. The letter will point out that the complaint lodged in the court has mentioned against the government. Divakaran said there is evidence against the chief minister.

The opposition will seek law to stop such kind of cases. The final draft of the terms of reference will be given to allied parties, said Divakaran.

The terms of reference is prepared by a sub panel chaired by LDF convenor Vaikkom Viswan. A K Balan, C Divakaran, N K Premachandran, A K Saseendran, Mathew T Thomas, Ramchandran Kadannappally and P C Thomas are the members of the panel.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My words on judicial probe were wrongly misinterpreted, says Chandy

NEW DELHI: The news that I was ready to face the judicial probe in the solar case is wrong, said Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.He said the daily Deccan Chronicle wrongly misinterpreted my words. Chandy refused to respond to repeated questions of reporters on it.

Reports came that Chandy was ready to face the judicial probe during an interview given to the Deccan Chronicle. The daily reported Chandy’s version that the government has an open approach to the demands of the opposition. 

I’ve not mediated to end LDF strike, says Kunhalikutty

MALAPPURAM: I’ve not mediated to end the secretariat siege staged by the LDF in the solar case, said Minister P K Kunhalikutty. Talking to reporters here, he said that it was not his job.

Kunhalikutty said giving leave for the secretariat was a brilliant move taken by the government. We know what will happen if a holiday is given. The government will not make any blunders shown by the Egyptian army. So the state has escaped, he said.

Strike was ended not on settlement basis, says Karat

NEW DELHI: The strike staged by the LDF seeking the resignation of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in the solar case was ended not on any settlement grounds, said CPM general secretary Prakash Karat. Addressing the media, he said there are no differences of opinion either in the party or in the LDF.

Karat addressed the Secretariat siege as a historic strike.He said the problem will not end with the judicial probe and will continue agitations for his resignation.

Karat refused to respond on questions related to SNC Lavalin case.But on repeated questions, he said the E Balanandan Committee was not entrusted to study Lavalin deal. They reviewed about the basic problems of the power sector.

Mamta Mohadas granted divorce

KOCHI: The Ernakulam family court on Monday granted divorce to actor Mamta Mohandas and Prejith Padmanabhan.  The court granted divorce on a mutual divorce petition moved by both of them.

Mamta got married to Prejith, her childhood friend on December 28, 2013 at the Kadavu Resort in Kozhikode. After a year of marriage, they decided to divorce. Paisa Paisa was the last film Mamta acted.

Minister Ibrahim Kunju warns KWA, KSEB

KOCHI: Minister for Public Works V.K. Ibrahim Kunju on Monday warned of initiating criminal action against KWA, KSEB and telephone firms if they dug up roads between May and October.

Talking to reporters after a review meeting held here on Monday, he said heavy maintenance and resurfacing works will be done after the rains. “Contractors who failed to do proper resurfacing and repair works prior to the rains will be blacklisted if they failed to restore roads as per specifications.”

He also promised that all PWD roads in Kerala will be made motorable by September 9.

The minister said Ernakulam had been allotted Rs 76 crore for repairing roads and set the deadline for filling up potholed PWD and KSTP roads.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Three general secretaries for KPCC


THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Three more general secretaries have been selected for KPCC.  Satheesan Pacheni, V Balram and Manvila Radhakrishnan are the three new general secretaries.

Problems with George to be solved amicably, says Chennithala

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: KPCC chief Ramesh Chennithala Sunday said the problems with chief whip P C George will be solved amicably after holding talks with the Kerala Congress leadership. Talking to reporters here, he said some small problems exist.

Chennithala said differences of opinion are quite natural. The congress is trying to take everyone forward as the party leading the front. He asked everyone not to think there is a crisis in the UDF with the small problems existing now.

Chennithala said the arrangements for the Lok Sabha polls and organizational matters will be discussed during their Delhi visit.

Solar: VS wins party’s support for legal battle

NEW DELHI: Veteran CPI (M) leader and Kerala Opposition Leader V.S. Achuthanandan on Saturday won the support of the party leadership to take up legal fight in the solar case.

The party’s leaders at the centre will help Achuthanandan to get the service of senior advocates.

Achuthanandan held talks with CPI (M) General Secretary Prakash Karat and CPI (M) Politburo member Sitaram Yechury on approaching the court in the solar case. Besides, Achuthanandan also conveyed his unhappiness on calling off the siege at the Secretariat prematurely.

Meanwhile, Sitaram Yechury said the PB Commission would be visiting Kerala after Parliament session.

CPI (M) secretariat siege is not a failure: NSS

PERUNNA: NSS general secretary G. Sukumaran Nair on Saturday said he does not think that the secretariat siege by CPI (M) was a failure. The agitation proved the strength of CPI (M), he added.

He said NSS’s silence on the issue has many meanings. Besides, NSS is not interested in reaping political benefits exploiting the situation, he said.

Solar: Hemachandran says no confusion on responsibility

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: ADGP A. Hemachandran on Saturday said there is no confusion on the responsibility of investigation in the solar panel case.

“As the head of the investigation team, I have the responsibility of the supervisory,” he said.

He said the investigating officers will present the chargesheet with his knowledge and approval.

There are altogether 33 cases in connection with the solar panel scam. Special investigation team was formed to probe these cases. Officers with the rank of DySP will head the probe into each case, he said.

Nobody can boycott anyone, says Mani

KOCHI: Kerala Congress (M) chairman K M Mani came forward supporting chief whip P C George after criticizing Congress leaders in the solar issue. Nobody can boycott anyone, unity is the agenda of the Kerala Congress, said Mani.

He said this while responding to the circular released by Congress Poonjar assembly mandalam committee that they will boycott George.

The party is trying to solve the problems in the UDF, he said.

Hassan demands removal of P C George

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Congress spokesperson M M Hassan Sunday demanded the removal of P C George from the post. Hassan said that he had requested Minister K M Mani to remove him from the post many times but no action was taken so far.

Being in the UDF and taking stand against them is not right, said Hassan. He is continuously creating problems for the UDF. He need not interfere in the internal problems of the Congress.

Meantime, Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson P J Kurien came forward supporting George. Boycotting and showing black flags are not a solution for anything. Being in the respectable post, he can opine and nobody can stop that. A solution should be found to the problems before the Lok Sabha polls. If not, it will badly affect the front, added Kurien.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Govt's first priority should be to find solution to people's problems: Kerala High Court

KOCHI: The Kerala High Court Tuesday orally observed that the government's first priority should be to find a solution to the problems of people.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice K Vinod Chandran made the observation when two petitions against the Secretariat siege by Left Democratic Front volunteers, which has now been called off, came up before the court.

The bench asked Advocate General K P Dandapani as to which problem the government was giving priority-- flood related activities or the present problem?

"When our state is facing huge loss in agriculture due to heavy rains experienced this year, the government's first priority should be given to the problem of the people', the court orally held.

The bench said 'we are not arbitrators to decide who is wrong'.

In reply to the plea that provisions of restriction of Assemblies and Procession on Public Pavement Act are not being enforced by the government, the court said that Constitutional courts cannot compel enforcement of law.

The state government filed a statement showing the precautionary measures taken to face the situation of agitation.

Though the parties were asked to address the court in the afternoon, when the matter taken up, the court was informed that the strike had been called off.

Following the request of the petitioners, the case was adjourned to Monday.

Ruling UDF earlier had earlier Tuesday announced a probe into the solar scam, leading to CPI-M led LDF Opposition calling off their siege to the secretariat,which saw thousands of protesters converging in the state capital since Monday, demanding resignation of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

The scam pertains to financial cheating of several people by the accused Biju Radkahrishnan and Saritha Nair, both under arrest, by offering clients solar energy solutions.

The accused allegedly flaunted their clout with the CM's office for duping unsuspecting clients of huge sums.PTI 9 illegal fireworks units sealed; Rs 3 lakh fireworks seized

Virudhungar, Aug 13 (PTI): Nine fireworks factories operating here without proper licence were sealed Tuesday on the directions of Madurai Bench of Madras High court and Rs three lakh worth of fireworks seized from there, officials said.

With this, a total of 79 fireworks units have been sealed so far in the district, they said.

A high-level committee inspected the factories and recommended that they be sealed, after which it was done. Chemically coated wicks and fireworks stored in houses for undertaking job works were also seized, they said.

On July 21 police had registered a case against the owner of a sealed factory after one person died while mixing chemicals.

The officials warned of severe action against anyone trying to operate sealed factories and said the owners would be permanently banned from explosives or fireworks business.

They said sealing of the factories would increase manifold the cost of fireworks ahead of festival season.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

TV channels splash old photo of Chandy, Saritha

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Some TV channels in Kerala on Sunday night aired a picture of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy with Saritha S. Nair, a woman arrested for an alleged role in a scam related to solar panels.

The picture was telecast hours before the Left opposition's proposed indefinite "secretariat siege", demanding Chandy's resignation over the scam.

The state secretariat is the seat of the Kerala government and the Left opposition has announced that starting Monday, no one will be allowed to enter until Chandy resigns over the solar scam.

Saritha and her business partner in the controversial "Team Solar company" had allegedly duped numerous investors of Rs.7 crores and the scandal has come to be known as the "solar scam".

The telephone call records of Saritha showed that she had been in frequent touch with members of the chief minister's personal staff, police said.

The alleged wrongdoings of the company became public in June and since then the Left opposition has been demanding the resignation of Chandy.

Saritha and her partner are both behind bars along with Teny Jopan, the former personal assistant of Chandy.

After the chief minister's photo with Saritha was splashed across TV channels, his party colleague Sooranad Rajasekharan said the picture did not mean much.

"Chandy is accessible to anyone and anyone can meet him and say anything to him, so this does not mean anything," said Rajasekharan.

Chandy earlier said in the assembly that he was told by his party workers that Saritha S. Nair was also present at a function in Kottayam district and this picture was taken there.

CPI (M) politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said Chandy should resign at the earliest.

Chandy should resign, says P.C. George

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: KC (M) leader and Government Chief Whip P.C. George on Saturday demanded that Chief Minister Oommen Chandy should resign keeping in mind the present political circumstances.

George said Congress High Command is to decide upon the resignation of Oommen Chandy. He said he believes that the High Command would take apt decision taking into consideration the opinions of constituent parties and the people.

Chandy should resign if he has any commitment to people, says Karat

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Demanding resignation of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy over the solar scam, CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat Monday said the Congress was setting a "shameless" standard of not accepting responsibility for "what is happening right under its nose."

Addressing a massive gathering of Left Democratic Front workers, who laid a siege in front of the Secretariat here, Karat said Chandy should step down from office if he had any accountability to people. 

"Congress has set shameless standards to see that their leaders are not accountable for what is happening in their ministries and offices," he said. 

While there were instances of Chief Ministers and Union Ministers resigning on moral grounds earlier, the party had now stooped to low levels to protect corruption. 

The Congress-led government in Kerala had called the Indo-Tibetan Border Police to protect a Chief Minister, who was facing allegations of corruption. "They are supposed to protect the borders in Jammu and Kashmir," he said.   

Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda said only an impartial probe by a judicial commission led by a High Court judge could come out with the truth on the solar scam and the chief minister should step down to make way for such a probe.

"The government cannot move ahead with an undeclared emergency all the time in view of the people's struggle. At least Chandy should step down to come out from the tangle," Gowda said.

Solar scam: Chandy announces judicial probe, LDF ends siege

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With the UDF government announcing a judicial probe into the solar scam, the CPI-M led LDF Opposition which has been demanding resignation of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Tuesday ended its siege to the secretariat, which saw thousands of protesters converging in the state capital since yesterday.

In a conciliatory move, Chandy announced the decision to hold a judicial probe into the scam after consulting senior leaders of the Congress and its UDF allies today.

Chandy said the service of a sitting High Court judge would be sought for the probe and its terms of reference would be worked out in consultation with LDF leaders.

Following this, LDF leaders met at CPI (M) state headquarters A K G Centre and decided to end the blockade as part of their demand was met by the government under opposition pressure.

CPI (M) state secretary Pinaryi Vijayan made a formal announcement of the end of the blockade before protesters in front the secretariat, but maintained that LDF would carry on with other forms of struggle for resignation of Chandy.

The SIT set up to probe the scam, pertaining to alleged cheating of huge sums by the accused Biju Radhakrishnan and Saritha S Nair, has completed the investigation and the charge sheet is to be submitted before the court later this week.

The case assumed a serious political dimension with the arrest of a personal assistant in the Chief Minister's Office for his alleged links with the accused.

LDF had been alleging that such a huge scam would not have taken place without the collusion of the Chief Minister, a charge rejected by him.

The scam added further embarrassment to the Chandy government with the arrest of television actress Shalu Menon and former Public Relations Department Director A Firoz in a related case.

Seizing on the issue, LDF has been conducting different forms of struggles across the state for the last two months. The issue also rocked the assembly in June, forcing the government to cut short the session after guillotining financial business.

Though the Government had brought in a few contingents of central paramilitary forces to deal with the secretariat siege of the LDF, the campaign went off peacefully.

LDF leaders claimed the state government's decision to declare a two-day holiday for the secretariat reflected the success of their stir and the massive popular support for the demands raised by the opposition.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Govt’s appeal in Salim Raj’s case, stay on single bench verdict

KOCHI: The division bench of the Kerala High Court imposed a stay on the single bench’s verdict directing to produce the phone details of Salim Raj, gunman of the chief minister, in connection with the solar fraud case. The division bench imposed the stay while considering the plea of the government against the verdict of the single bench.

Justice V K Mohanan ordered to impound the phone details after a plea was filed by Premachand R Nair and two others stating the accused bribed and compelled the Kadakampaly village officer and other revenue officials to forge false documents including false thandaper for the purpose of defeating the claim of the petitioners over 12.27 acres land. The petitioners alleged that Salim Raj and others misused their official position and their political influence to cheat them. They alleged that original documents of the land with the revenue department were destroyed by officials in the village office, possibly at Salim Raj’s behest.

The government plea pointed out that the civil case happened more than 20 years before and is impossible to produce such documents.

AG informed the court that confiscating phone details is like impinging on one’s freedom. The division bench passed the order approving this argument of the government.

Kalimannu can be screened, says court

KOCHI: The Kerala High Court said there is no obstacle in releasing Blessy’s Kalimannu, a film embroiled in controversies. The court passed the order after rejecting a plea of Mada Swamy, a native of Idukki Peerumedu, requesting to stop the release of the film.  

Rejecting the plea, the court said there are no scenes in the film insulting womanhood or motherhood.  The film is not insulting anybody’s fundamental rights. The court said the censor board consisting of five women saw the film.

The government had earlier informed the court that Shweta Menon playing the lead role acted in the film on her own choice.

Allegations were leveled that Shweta Menon’s delivery scenes were included in the film.Many including Speaker G Karthikeyan were against it.

Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Thousands of Muslim men and women across the state congregated at Eidgahs Thursday morning to offer prayers on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.

Muslims in Kerala account for more than 24 percent of the 32 million people in the state.

Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations were in full swing in the Muslim-dominated districts of north Kerala like Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasargode.

Across the state, Muslims got together at halls and, in some places, in stadiums to hear religious discourses by clerics.

The state government has declared a two-day holiday on account of Eid. The Saturday following it is the second Saturday of the month, observed as a holiday by the state government. Keralites are thus in holiday mode until Sunday.

However, central government offices are working Thursday, as are all IT companies.

"I have taken the day off on account of Eid, but the office is working. For the past few years, this is the practice we follow," a Muslim IT professional working at the Technopark campus in the state capital said.

Mutton stalls in the state have witnessed a huge rush since Wednesday evening, as people queued to buy meat at a cost as high as Rs.500 a kg. Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of the dawn-to-sunset period of fasting during the month of Ramadan.

Idukki dam nears full capacity

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As concerns remained over security in vulnerable areas around the Idukki dam, which has touched 90 per cent storage capacity, a high-level team of state government officials have decided against opening the dam’s sluice gates.

A meeting of department secretaries on Thursday chaired by Chief Secretary E K Bharat Bushan decided that the situation did not call for opening of sluice gates.

The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) has been asked to increase generation of hydro-electric power from the reservoir to keep water levels on check.

Water level at Idukki on Wednesday reached 2,394 feet, with the dam generating 14.58 million units (mu) against the daily average of 8.54 mu.

Indeed, power generation has touched all-time high in Kerala as the State Load Despatch Centre reported generation of 38.25 mu of power on Wednesday from its 16 reservoirs and smaller hydel projects. Storage levels in the state’s reservoirs stand at 92 per cent of their total capacity.

Meanwhile, water level at the Mullaperiyar dam has touched 135.4 feet, and is fast approaching the permissible level of 136 feet.

At full storage, water will flow through spillways into the Idukki reservoir.

Officials deferred the call to open the dam’s shutters with the hope that increased hydel power generation and weakening spells (Idukki received only 5 cm rain on Thursday) would bring the water levels down below dangerous levels.

Opening the dam’s shutters would swell the river and cause misery for thousands of people.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

VS to move court in solar case

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan will move the Kerala High Court in the solar case. He will file a plea showing the lapses in the investigation of the solar case and may ask the court to monitor the investigation.  VS had sought permission from the party leadership to approach the court.

VS will inform the court that no proper probe was held on the statement of Sreedharan Nair, the complainant in the case. The plea may point out that law and order has deteriorated and that the investigating team is trying to save many including the chief minister.

The plea will also question why Salim Raj and Jikku were not arrested. VS will also inform the court that even after it was alleged that the chief minister, ministers and top cops have close links with Saritha S Nair, no probe was held on that side.

League not responsible for Chennithala's decision: IUML

MALAPPURAM: Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the second largest partner in the ruling UDF in Kerala, on Friday made it clear that the party did not have anything to do with the decision of KPCC President Ramesh Chennithala not to join the Oommen Chandy Ministry.

Alluding to his party's objections to creation of a Deputy Chief Minister's slot to accommodate Chennithala, IUML leader and Industries Minister P K Kunhalikutty said whether Chennithala should be inducted in the cabinet or not was an entirely internal issue of the Congress.

"The Congress high command did not consult the front partners on this issue. So, we are not a factor in the development," he told reporters here.

Meanwhile, former KPCC president K Muraleedharan said Chennithala's made a good decision in the prevailing circumstances.

"It is good for the party that Chennithala continues as KPCC President. Since he took over as state unit chief, the UDF has won all elections," Muraleedharan told reporters in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram.

Chandy had proposed to induct Chennithala into his ministry as part of an effort to improve the image of the Congress-led UDF government, which is under attack from CPI-M led LDF opposition over the solar panel scam that has brought the Chief Minister's office under a cloud.

However, Chennithala was not keen on the ministerial berth following which Congress President Sonia Gandhi Friday rejected the proposal.

Chandy doesn’t need me, says Chennithala

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Criticizing Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in harsh language for the talks that failed in Delhi in connection with his induction into the cabinet, KPCC chief Ramesh Chennithala said the former is not interested in me joining his government.

So, let Chandy run the government. I don’t want to join the government with a set of conditions. He said this in an interview to the Indian Express daily before leaving to the state.

Meantime, I intervened and blocked the reception arranged for me by my party activists in Kottayam.  They have emotions and feelings. But all are liable to obey the directions of the high command, he said.

'Very good' response to Kerala's self-service foreign liquor outlet

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala, which has the highest per capita consumption of liquor, can now boast of an exclusive air-conditioned shop for selling high-priced foreign liquor brands.

The self-service 'Premium Liquor Outlet', owned by the state-run Kerala State Beverages Corporation (BEVCO), was opened at Ullorr in the city recently.

The state government had announced in its budget the decision to open such outlets in all districts to cater to the needs of those 'tipplers' who find it 'embarrassing' to stand in queue in front of the corporation outlets. However, the outlet spread over an area of 1,000 sq ft would sell only high-priced premium products.

A bottle of chilled beer is priced at Rs 100 in the outlet. BEVCO officials, who claimed consumer response to the premium outlets was 'very good', said two similar outlets in Kochi and Kozhikode, would be opened soon.

As per the latest economic survey, liquor consumption in Kerala was the highest at more than 1.76 gallons (about eight litres) per person, followed by Maharashtra and Punjab. Revenue contributed to the state exchequer by sale of liquor till February in 2012-13 fiscal stood at Rs 6,336.01 crore.

Revenue towards state from liquor sale last fiscal was Rs 6,525.04 crore out of a gross sales of Rs 7,860.15 crore. BEVCO has 21 warehouses in different parts of the state and runs 338 foreign liquor retail outlets.

Sonia rejects Chandy's bid to induct Chennithala

KERALA: In a setback to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Congress President Sonia Gandhi Friday rejected his proposal to induct a reluctant PCC chief Ramesh Chennithala into his government which is under attack over the solar panel scam.

The decision follows hectic discussions which went on fornearly a week between Chandy, Chennithala, senior leader AK Antony and representatives of the party's high command — the Congress president's political secretary, Ahmed Patel, and the AICC General Secretary (in-charge of Kerala) Mukul Wasnik.

Chennithala, who has been at the helm of the party in Kerala for the last eight years, had made it clear he was not keen on joining the state government as a minister.

However, Chandy wanted the PCC chief's entry into his Cabinet to give a breather to his government.

"Today, I am very happy that the Congress president approved my position and gave the consent for me to continue as PCC president and not join the government. I will work for the party in the ensuing Lok Sabha polls and I will try my level best to get more seats in the state," Chennithala said after his meeting with Gandhi.

He met the party president hours after Chandy had held discussions with her separately.

"When the new government was formed under the leadership of Chandy, I was very reluctant to join it. I'd categorically stated that I was not interested in joining the government," the PCC chief said.

Chennithala, who has been asked to stay back in Delhi by the party high command, is learnt to have toughened his stand after two major allies of the Congress in the state — Indian Union Muslim League and Kerala Congress (Mani) — expressed reservations over his induction as Deputy Chief Minister.

The two alliance members had often stated that as key partners, they too had a claim to the slot, which is now non-existent.

"I'm a staunch Congress loyalist. I will not compromise with my party's interest for a ministerial berth... But I am pained, because my name has been unnecessarily dragged into a controversy. I feel that was unnecessary. It was unwarranted," Chennithala said.

Sonia Gandhi's decision to allow Chennithala to continue as PCC president comes at a time when there has been unease in the state Congress and UDF over the solar panel scam as they feel it will hurt the Front's prospects in coming Lok Sabha polls.

The solar panel scam pertains to financial cheating of large number of people by accused Saritha Nair and Biju Radhakrishnan.

It took a serious political turn after the arrest of a personal aide of Chandy for his alleged links with the fraudsters. Four personal staff members of Chandy were removed and state Public Relations Director A Firoz was arrested in a related case.

Chennithala said as the PCC Chief he will continue his all support to the Chandy-led government.

He said he was pained by the "unnecessary" discussion took place in the state about his Cabinet entry immediately after the successful conclusion of his Kerala Yatra -- a journey undertaken from Kasargode to Thiruvananthapuram to strengthen the organisational base of the party some months ago.

"AICC Vice president Rahul Gandhi attended the concluding session of Kerala Yatra. In between the Yatra, there were some discussions. Some of my friends came and asked me to join the government. They had taken the consent of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

"I am pained for the last five months, my name was unnecessarily dragged into the controversy and discussion was going on in Kerala, which I never intended," Chennithala said.

Recalling his past experience as All India Youth Congress chief and NSU(I) chief during Rajiv Gandhi's period, and his tenure as a minister in Karunakaran cabinet 28 years ago, the PCC Chief said that he had never asked anyone to make him Minister.

"I never asked anyone to make me a minister. 28 years ago in Karunakaran government, I was made a minister by Karunakaran on the direction of Rajiv Gandhi. So it is nothing new for me and I was a Congress Working Committee member, I was president of All India Youth Congress, NSU (I) all India president," Chennithala said.

Meanwhile, Chandy said he was not aware of the circumstances under which Chennithala issued such a statement.

Sources said the Chief Minister is upset over the unilateral statement by Chennithala and he is learnt to have taken up the matter with the high command.