Kochi, Oct 13 (IANS) The Pinarayi Vijayan government facing heat from numerous central agencies, on Tuesday got relief when the Kerala High Court granted an interim stay for two months in the ongoing CBI inquiry into the Life Mission housing project, a pet project of the chief minister.
The Life Mission last month approached the high court seeking quashing of FIR registered by the CBI, however, that was disallowed. The high court has only stayed the CBI probe into the alleged Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act violation in the Vadakkanchery Life Mission housing project.
The detailed hearing in the case will continue as the court seeks to know the role of two private agencies — Unitac builders and Sane Ventures, which secured the contract to build the flats at Wadakkancherry in Thrissur.
Congress legislator Anil Akkara on whose petition the CBI probe was initiated said “this was expected as there is a question of law” raised by the state government.
“What happened in the court is the plea of the Mission seeking quashing of the FIR, has not happened. The issue of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act if it can be put on the Mission is being looked into and that’s a legal issue, which will now be looked into, and the probe into other aspects will go forward,” said Akkare.
State BJP spokesperson J.R.Padmakumar said this is a question of law after the Kerala government sought for it.
“This verdict is not absolving the Vijayan government instead it will continue. Had the FIR been quashed, then yes, but that has not happened. It’s just a process of law and it’s only an interim stay,” said Padmakumar.
Top CPI-M leader N.N.Krishnadas said ours is a federal system and there are clear cut rules on how national agencies can intervene.
“This is not just an issue of Life Mission, it’s a question on how national agencies can probe cases. So we will wait and see,” said Krishnadas.
Last month the state government had sought legal advice and was told that the FIR registered can be quashed as it was illegal and the government had no role in it.
Life Mission CEO, U.V.Jose, a senior IAS official had appeared before the CBI with all the documents.
The contention of the Mission is that the agreement for construction was between the UAE-based Red Crescent, a charity organisation which is funding the construction of the flat project at Wadakkancherry at Thrissur district and Unitach Builders, who are building it and the state government has no role in it and hence the FIR is illegal and it should be quashed.
The Life Mission project, a pet project of Vijayan ever since he assumed the CM’s office in 2016, was floated to build houses for the homeless and landless, using funds raised through sponsorships. The state’s role was limited to only providing the land.
The project, however, ran into trouble when Akkara, first raised questions about alleged wrong doings in a building project in his Wadakkanchery constituency, for which funds came from UAE-based charity Red Crescent.
Though Vijayan had been maintaining that the state, apart from handing over land, had no role in the project, things began to change after the Kerala gold smuggling case surfaced.
This particular project was routed through the UAE Consulate, where smuggling case main accused Swapna Suresh and P.S. Sarith earlier worked. It turned murkier when news surfaced that a son of Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan was also close to Swapna.
Vijayan’s media adviser John Brittas had claimed that Rs 4.25 crore in commission was paid in the project, a stand endorsed by two state Ministers also.
The CBI has already questioned Santhosh Eapen, whose company Unitac and Sane Ventures was given the contract to build the houses and a health centre.
Vijayan is Life Mission Chairman while his trusted aide and Local Self-Government Minister A.C. Moideen is the Vice-Chairman. The project MoU was inked in Vijayan’s office.