Solar case defamation suit: Achuthanandan ordered to pay ₹10.10 lakh damages to Chandy
A court in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday ordered former chief minister and CPI(M) leader V S Achuthanandan to pay ₹10.10 lakh to Oommen Chandy, former CM and senior Congress leader, in a defamation suit filed in connection with the solar scam case.
In an interview to a news channel in July 2013, Achuthanandan, then the opposition leader, alleged that CM Chandy was behind the fictitious solar firm and that he knew about the cheating case. He also alleged that Chandy had accepted a portion of the commission from the main accused, Saritha S Nair, for the help given to her.
Chandy filed a defamation suit in 2014, saying that the grave charges invited embarrassment to him and sullied his image. He first sought damages of ₹1 crore but later reduced it to ₹10.10 lakh.
The principal sub-court found his contention right and ordered Achuthanandan to pay damage with 6 per cent interest and with court fees. In 2019, Chandy appeared before the court in person to explain his position. Though the counsel for Achuthanandan repeated the allegation, he failed to substantiate charges with evidence, the court found.
“These charges were made without any basis and they intended to sully his image, so the petitioner has every right to claim damage,” said the court.
Chandy has hailed the verdict, saying truth will prevail always. “Many hands and conscience are clear. The CPI(M) cooked up stories after stories to portray me in bad light. I was sure truth will prevail,” said Chandy, who is a general secretary of the AICC. The counsel for Achuthanandan said he will move an appeal in a higher court soon. Achuthanandan is undergoing treatment for Covid-19 at a private hospital in the state capital.
The solar cheating case relates to an alleged con woman, Saritha Nair, and her second husband Biju Radhakrishnan, who floated a company called ‘Team Solar’ in 2013 and cheated many promising them stakes in the firm and good returns after selling imported solar panels. They allegedly cultivated good contacts in corridors of power and flaunted them to attract investors.
Radhakrishnan was later convicted in a murder case.
The cheating incident surfaced in 2014 and 60 cases were registered against the two. Then CM Chandy had sacked two of his private secretaries and the state public relations director when their names allegedly cropped up in the case. Later the main accused Nair had raised sexual assault charges against many Congress leaders, including Chandy, K C Venugopal, Adoor Prakash MP, A P Anil Kumar, Hibi Eden MP and Abdullha Kutty. Later the government had constituted a judicial commission.
The case was one of the reasons for the Congress’s drubbing in 2016 assembly elections. In her complaint, Nair alleged that she was subjected to sexual abuse by the accused in return of favours granted to her. Later, the judicial commission also recommended a probe into sexual assault charges.
Saritha Nair is in judicial custody now in connection with another cheating case.
She was convicted in seven cases related to solar cheating case, but out on bail, she allegedly cheated some people promising them government jobs. She also tried to contest against Rahul Gandhi in Wayanad but her papers were rejected. Later the Supreme Court had slapped a fine on her when she approached it.
The solar scam case was handed over to the CBI last year after Nair had petitioned the CM complaining that she was yet to get justice in sexual assault cases and sought a central agency probe.