India - Kerala: VACB accused of ‘bid to save Minister’
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM ,MAY 08, 2017 23:31 IST
Petitioner says Vigilance disregarded its own findings in case against Mercykutty
A special court here on Monday heard that the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) had “curiously disregarded” its own findings to absolve Fisheries and Cashew Minister J. Mercykutty Amma of corruption in the procurement of raw nuts for public sector cashew processing factories in 2016.
G. Saseendran, former Additional Director of Prosecution (Vigilance), savaged the agency’s “mystifying” conclusion that it saw no “mala fide” on the part of the Minister when its own initial probe into themulti-crore deal appeared to suggest otherwise.
He told Inquiry Commissioner and Special Judge, Vigilance, A. Baharudeen, that the agency’s probe report, submitted in February, said there was “some merit in the complainant’s allegation that procedural violations, opacity in tender procedures and attempts to fix bids at the Minister’s level was evident in the procurement of raw cashew.”
His client, petitioner Abdul Rehman, had alleged that percentage of defective nuts permissible in consignments was increased to favour suppliers.
The lowest bidder was excluded citing “unspecified technical reasons” and the government facilitated cartel formation by allowing three bidders to agree on a higher than market price for supplying raw cashew. Mr. Saseendran accused the VACB of having glossed over the evidence it had unearthed to save the Minister from a criminal inquiry. The agency had merely suggested “remedial measures to prevent the recurrence of the allegation.”
It had frowned upon the questionable tender conditions and suggested that “they shall not be extended beyond six months period.”
Mr. Saseendran told the court that his case was that the deal, concluded hastily under the pretext of providing jobs for cashew workers during the run-up to last Onam, had caused the public exchequer an estimated loss of ₹10.14 crore. The VACB had stopped short of suggesting a criminal inquiry.
The VACB’s contention that the Minister and other officials made no personal financial gain from the ₹50 crore deal had no legality. Causing loss to the government was sufficient ground to prosecute them under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The court will hear the case again on May 11.