Bar bribery case: Court orders further probe against KM Mani

In a setback to the Kerala government, the Vigilance and Special Court on Thursday rejected the Vigilance and Anti Corruption Bureau's report seeking closure of the bar bribery charges against Finance Minister KM Mani.

Thiruvananthapuram: In a setback to the Kerala government, the Vigilance and Special Court on Thursday rejected the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau's report seeking closure of the bar bribery charges against Finance Minister KM Mani.

Enquiry Commissioner and Special Judge John K Illekadan declined to accept the final investigation report which had exonerated Mani, stating there was no evidence to corroborate the charges that he demanded Rs five crore and accepted Rs one crore as bribe for renewal of licence to 470 Indian made foreign liquor bars in 2014.

The court observed that the final report was "not acceptable" and the matter was "remitted back to investigation officer for further probe".

Vigilance Bureau had filed its final report in June holding that there was no evidence to frame a charge sheet against the Finance Minister and the case should be closed.

CPI(M) veteran and opposition leader in the Kerala Assembly VS Achuthanandan and eight others had filed petitions challenging the closure report holding that there was enough evidence to prosecute Mani in the case.

The petitioners had sought a fresh probe into the case and quashing of the Vigilance closure report.

The case was registered against Mani, the supremo of the Kerala Congress (M), the third largest partner in ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), on the basis of a complaint filed by Achuthanandan.

Whistle-blower bar owner Biju Ramesh had created a major stir last October when he alleged that office bearers of the Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association had given a bribe of Rs 1 crore to state Finance Minister KM Mani. In March, he further alleged that Excise Minister K Babu was given Rs 10 crore.

The money, according to Ramesh, was given to ensure that the functioning of the bars will not be affected when the new liquor policy comes into effect.

Based on the allegation and complaint lodged by Achuthanandan, the vigilance conducted a Quick Verification and registered an FIR in the case.

The state witnessed a series of agitations by CPI(M)-led LDF Opposition demanding resignation of Mani since the alleged scam came to light in November 2014.

The Assembly had also witnessed unprecedented violence over the issue when LDF members tried to prevent Mani from presenting the budget on March 13 last.

The development comes ahead of next month's civic polls in the state. 

(With Agency inputs)

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