KOCHI: In a setback to Kerala Congress (M) leader and former state finance minister K M Mani ahead of the Assembly polls, the Kerala High Court on Friday refused to stay proceedings against him in the bar bribery case pending in the Vigilance Court in Thiruvananthapuram.
Justice P D Rajan rejected the plea of 82-year-old Mani seeking to stay the proceedings against him till the state Crime Branch files an inquiry report in a case against a Vigilance Superintendent of Police accused of conducting a false probe in the bar bribery case involving the KC-M leader.
Mani argued that SP R Sukeshan, the Investigating Officer in the case, is accused of instigating Kerala Bar Hotel Association Working President Biju Ramesh to level allegations against four state ministers in the bar bribery scam related to renewal of licences of the liquor bars.
The vigilance case was filed based on the allegation by Ramesh that Mani had accepted Rs one crore for renewing licences of more than 400 bar hotels.
Refusing to stay the proceedings against Mani, who resigned as minister after the vigilance case was registered last year, the judge came down heavily on police for the manner of investigation being conducted in both the bar bribery scandal and the conspiracy case against Sukeshan.
Directing the police to file a detailed counter affidavit in the petition filed by Mani, he said there was no urgency in this matter and deferred to May 19 for further consideration. The court also refused repeated prayer by Mani’s counsel to post the case for consideration during the vacation.
When Mani’s counsel contended that the case against the former minister was false, Justice Rajan orally asked, “How can your own police register a false case against a powerful minister?”
The Vigilance Court, Thiruvananthapuram will consider the case against Mani on April 16, exactly a month before the state goes to Assembly polls.
The high court observed that no efforts have been taken by the probe agency to ascertain the authenticity of electronic data collected during investigation in the case against the Vigilance SP with regard to the allegations against his investigation in the bar bribery scandal.
While Mani’s petition came up for hearing on Thursday, Justice Rajan had directed the Crime Branch to submit the progress of investigation conducted against Sukeshan.
Though some attempts were made by the petitioner to show scientific records to prove his charge against Sukeshan, the court observed that it was not admissible as Forensic Science Laboratory in Thiruvananthapuram was not equipped to carry out such a scientific probe.
The court also observed that no material has been collected so far in the conspiracy case against Sukeshan. Mani is set to seek election from his home constituency Pala in Kottayam in the May 16 Assembly polls.