Kerala High Court.
Kerala High Court.

Kerala HC rejects govt plea questioning CBI probe into Life Mission project

  • A flagship project of the government, aimed at building free houses for the poor, it ran into rough weather after Congress MLA Anil Akkara filed a complaint with the CBI saying the project violated the Foreign Currency Regulation Act (FCRA).
By Ramesh Babu | Edited by Sohini Sarkar, Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
PUBLISHED ON JAN 12, 2021 02:45 PM IST

In a setback to the Kerala government, the High Court on Tuesday dismissed its plea questioning the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into alleged irregularities in the state’s pet project Life Mission.

A single bench headed by Justice P Somarajan observed that officers involved in the project were pursuing “a hidden agenda” but liability for such mischief could not be extended to the political executive but it needs to be looked into thoroughly.

A flagship project of the government, aimed at building free houses for the poor, it ran into rough weather after Congress MLA Anil Akkara filed a complaint with the CBI saying the project violated the Foreign Currency Regulation Act (FCRA).

Besides this, when the lockers of gold smuggling prime accused Swapna Suresh was searched the Enforcement Directorate (ED) found one crore cash and gold in them and she later told the agency this was the commission she received for brokering a deal with Red Crescent, a foreign charitable body, which sponsored the housing project in Thrissur district.

However, when the CBI started preliminary investigation, the government moved the High Court to restrain it saying it will sabotage the project and its intervention was unwarranted and it cannot take up cases like this without the permission of the government or court. But the court refused to stop the probe.

“It seems an intellectual fraud played in furtherance of the MoU so as to avoid audit by the CAG and to get kickbacks and gratifications. MoU was not entered into in accordance with Article 229 of the Constitution which pertains to the government contract,” the court ruled saying it was clinched to avoid the CAG audit.

There are allegations that senior IAS officer M Sivasankar, now in jail in connection with money laundering charges related to the gold smuggling case, and his accomplices allegedly played a key role in clinching the project.

The gold smuggling case came to light in July last year after the Customs seized 30 kg of gold from a consignment that came to the UAE Consulate camouflaged as a diplomatic parcel. Now a multi-agency investigation is on and 35 people have been arrested including the CM’s private secretary M Sivasankar. Opposition Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party have welcomed the verdict. “It is a slap on the face of the government,” said Anil Akkara, Congress legislator who had approached the CBI.

The project relates to building 140 housing units in Vadkancherry in Thrissur district. As per the application filed by the CEO of the project in the High Court, the Red Crescent authority of the UAE consulate offered to sponsor the project and an MoU was entered into in 2019.

According to the MoU, the sponsor will execute the project through independent contractors. The Congress lawmaker later filed a complaint alleging 10 lakh UAE Dirham was transferred to the private contractor, Unitach, in violation of FCRA norms. It was found during investigation that out of the 20 crore project, four crore was allegedly siphoned off to people who worked behind the project and the quality of construction was inferior. It was also found that the Centre’s permission was not obtained before signing the MoU.


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