Kerala’s Opposition walks out over bar scam probe

Thiruvananthapuram, June 29 (IANS) The rescheduled budget session of the Kerala assembly started on expected lines on Monday with the Left opposition staging a walkout after its plea for an adjournment motion was disallowed.

The move was made to discuss a flawed bar scam case that allegedly favoured the state Finance Minister K.M. Mani.

Seeking leave of the house for the adjournment motion, senior Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader S.Sarma said since its launch the bar scam case probe was manipulated, using the powers of the government.

On Saturday, reports surfaced that the vigilance department has decided to give a clean chit to Mani after the probe failed to find proper evidences to match the allegation.

“Even though the case is being conducted under the director of the vigilance department, Vinson M. Paul, the brain behind the probe is of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and hence the rule of law is being violated,” said Sarma.

Sarma said it was astonishing to see that the vigilance director sought legal advice from former additional solicitor general L. Nageswara Rao, who was counsel for the Classifieds Hotels Association in the apex court against the liquor policy of the state government.

The Kerala finance minister is facing the heat after a whistle-blower bar owner Biju Ramesh in October claimed that Mani was given Rs.1 crore to open the bars that would be closed down under the state government’s revised liquor policy. After this allegation, the state government ordered a vigilance department probe.

Replying to Sarma, state Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said this case was a rare instance where a probe was initiated against a sitting minister and right from the start, the probe went as per the law.

“During the previous Left rule (2006-11) around 25 cases that were probed and where the probe official found evidences, those cases were not taken forward by the higher official or the state government,” Chennithala said.

“Everything is going in the way as it should despite a lot of pressure,” said Chennithala, adding that he had not succumbed to the pressure.

Before leading the entire opposition out of the house, Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan said Chandy was the real villain in the entire case being sidelined.

“Right from the time the case began, Chandy has been time and again mentioning that there is no evidence in the allegations and has been playing spoil-sport in a free and fair probe,” said Achuthanandan.

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