Kerala court trashes clean chit to minister Mani, orders fresh probe

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The Special Vigilance Court in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday quashed the clean chit the vigilance department gave to state Finance Minister K.M. Mani in the alleged bar scam and asked for a further probe.

Reacting to the verdict, Mani welcomed further probe into the case.

“I have always wanted the truth to come out and now I am happy that the court has asked for a further probe and let the final verdict come. I always wanted this because, if the court had not asked for a further probe, then there could have risen other arguments,” said Mani.

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The court issued the order after looking into seven petitions filed for a further probe.

The case began last October when bar owner Biju Ramesh claimed that Mani was given Rs.1 crore as bribe by the Kerala Bar Owners’ Association to reopen a total of 418 bars that were shut down in the state under the new excise policy.

Following a letter to the vigilance director, the Kerala government ordered a probe against Mani and following a quick verification, a case was registered naming Mani as the first accused.

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After seven months of probe, the vigilance department found that there was not enough evidence against Mani and it filed the closure report.

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With the local body polls to be held on 2 November and 5, as soon as the vigilance court direction came top Left opposition leaders, including former chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan and CPI-M state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, asked Mani to quit. Balakrishnan also demanded Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s resignation.

“In no way I am going to step down because there have been precedents of even chief minister and ministers remaining in office. So, we will wait for the final report,” said Mani.

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Following the court direction for re-investigation of the case against Mani, Vigilance director Vinson M. Paul, a director general of police rank officer who gave the finance minister a clean chit, informed the media here that he is proceeding on leave.

“I am going on leave for a while, for which I am applying to the government. There is no feeling of guilt and it’s not because of that I am going on leave. With regards to the case, I have only followed the procedures,” said Paul.

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