Kerala HC says Lokayukta can probe graft allegations in purchase of PPE kits

Published on Dec 01, 2022 11:39 PM IST

A division bench of Chief Justice M Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly said disasters should not be a cover for corruption and the public have every right to know whether some corruption took place or not in the deal.

Former health secretary Rajan Kobragade had approached the high court last month against the Lokayukta’s move to investigate the complaint filed by Youth Congress leader Veena Nair.
Former health secretary Rajan Kobragade had approached the high court last month against the Lokayukta’s move to investigate the complaint filed by Youth Congress leader Veena Nair.

Thiruvananthapuram:

The Kerala high court on Thursday observed that Lokayukta can look into alleged corruption in procurement of PPE kits during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic in the state and asked respondents why they were “afraid” of an investigation.

A division bench of Chief Justice M Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly said disasters should not be a cover for corruption and the public have every right to know whether some corruption took place or not in the deal.

The court said Lokayukta has every right to examine the complaint alleging corruption and irregularities in the deal and respondents should not be afraid of investigation. The court later refused to stay or annul the move of the anti-corruption body.

Former health secretary Rajan Kobragade had approached the high court last month against the Lokayukta’s move to investigate the complaint filed by Youth Congress leader Veena Nair. In October, it sent notices to then health minister K K Shailaja, Khobragade and nine others.

In her complaint filed in July, Nair alleged PPE kits were purchased at exorbitant rates in 2020 through the Kerala Medical Services Corporation (KMSCL), the purchasing wing of the state health department. On March 29, 2020, a single PPE kit was priced at 446 whereas the next day, it was purchased at 1,550, she alleged in her complaint citing the price chart.

She said though PPE kits were available at cheaper rates, the KMSCL purchased the expensive ones and entered into an agreement with foreign firms. She also alleged that kickbacks were given in the deal. Besides PPE kits, Nair alleged corruption in purchases of other medical equipment. She alleged that in some cases, the money was transferred to foreign firms even before delivery. Later, Lokayukta sent notices to all respondents.

Shailaja, however, has maintained that her priority at the time was to save lives and denied any corruption. She said life-saving devices were not available in the domestic market initially, forcing the KMSCL to purchase from foreign firms. She alleged that the charges were politically-motivated.

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