The Kerala high court on Monday declined to stay the vigilance court verdict on the probe against Kerala finance minister KM Mani in a bar bribery case. It also pulled up the state government for spending the tax payers’ money to defend a minister who is facing serious corruption charges.
The court witnessed dramatic scenes as the counsel for vigilance Kapil Sibal and the state Attorney General (AG) objected to the observation of the single bench that there was strong evidence to show the minister had accepted bribe. The government had moved the HC after the vigilance court rejected the state vigilance director’s decision to close the case for want of evidence.
With the HC refusing to stay the lower court verdict, the demand for Mani’s ouster is gaining momentum. Many Congress leaders feel that the bar bribery case was one of the reasons for the ruling coalition’s debacle in local body poll. There are speculations that he may resign later in the day.
Last year state bar hotel owners’ association had alleged that Mani took `1 crore bribe from them promising a favourable liquor policy. When the government cancelled licences of all bars, other than five-star hotels, they filed a complaint against him.
The CPM-led Left Democratic Front opposition has been demanding his resignation and prevented him from presenting the state budget leading to a free-for-all in the state assembly in March this year injuring five legislators and many security personnel.
The vigilance bureau had filed its final report in June saying there was no evidence to frame a charge sheet against the minister and the case should be closed.
However Opposition leader VS Achuthanandan and eight others moved the court challenging the director saying the director was pressurised to give a closure report.