Kerala excise minister K Babu resigned from his post on Saturday after the state vigilance court ordered the filing of a case against him for allegedly accepting bribes from bar owners.
The second minister to quit over the scandal, Babu’s resignation dents the Congress-led United Democratic Front which has only three months to go for the assembly elections.
State finance minister K M Mani had quit two months back after the Kerala High Court passed strictures against him in the same case. Members of the Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association had accused both ministers of promising a favorable liquor policy in exchange for money. The Kerala government had last year closed down all bars in the state other than those in five-star hotels, citing the high liquor consumption of the state.
Stating he was made a scapegoat for bringing a transparent liquor policy, Babu resolved to clear his name. “I respect the court ruling. I don’t want to cling to technicalities and remain in power. I will prove my innocence soon,” Babu said in Kochi while announcing his resignation.
Soon after the court observation was made, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee chief V M Sudheeran said Babu should ideally quit to uphold the integrity of the office.
The vigilance court directed the state vigilance bureau to conduct a court-supervised probe and submit a report within a month. The court further directed that a case be filed against those association members who allegedly paid the bribe.
The court also pulled up the vigilance department for delaying its initial findings in the investigation, saying the department cannot make judiciary a mockery.
The vigilance department was to initially submit a quick verification report on the charges by January 23, but asked for more time as it had submitted it to the Lokayukta.
“Since Lok Ayukta is functioning do you think that the vigilance court has been closed? If the officials have some honesty, sincerity and commitment the report should have been filed within 10 days,” the court observed in a stern warning.