The Pinarayi Vijayan government won a temporary reprieve when the Kerala High Court on Tuesday stayed the CBI probe into the case involving Life Mission for two months, but the court refused to stay the FIR registered by the CBI.
The court, however, allowed the CBI to go ahead with its probes involving the CEO of Unitac, the company engaged in the construction of the controversial project, who has deposed it paid over Rs4 crore as commission to key gold smuggling suspect Swapna Suresh and others.
Both the government and the opposition claimed victory for their respective stands. CM Vijayan asserted the court order was a rebuff to those who spread canards against the state government’s prestigious scheme, which was aimed at bringing succour to the landless and homeless.
Leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala, however, argued with the court’s order, the state government’s bid to prevent CBI from probing the case has been frustrated. CBI sources said they were going ahead with the investigations. The court has only doubted the applicability of foreign contributions law to the Life Mission.
The state government submitted before the court the provisions under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) could not be invoked against it. The CBI probe was an abuse of the process of the law. A Vigilance inquiry is going on with respect to charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act and an FIR was filed.
The Vigilance probe is independent of the CBI inquiry and will continue. Opposition parties had alleged the Vigilance probe was meant to pre-empt CBI from taking up the case. Vigilance officials had taken custody of all important documents relating to the deal, which strengthened the opposition argument, but the dept has been carrying on its investigations in right earnest.
The government argued it had no role in the agreement between the UAE charity Red Crescent and the construction firms and the CBI case against Life Mission was mala fide and prompted by political considerations. It argued the construction firms that received the money did not come under the purview of the referred law and as such there was nothing wrong, though the claim of commission payment had proved to be a sticking out point.
The court stay does not prevent CBI from grilling players like M Sivasankar, the former principal secy of CM, believed to have facilitated the award of the contract to the controversial firms on behalf of Swapna Suresh and others.