Hiring lawyers from outside to represent the State in cases

An anti-corruption court here on Monday ordered the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) to “conduct a preliminary inquiry” into the allegation that former Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan had caused a loss of Rs.3 crore to the exchequer by hiring lawyers from outside to represent the State in various cases in the Supreme Court during 2006-08.

John K. Illikadan, Vigilance Inquiry Commissioner and Special Judge, passed the order on the basis of a petition filed by Raju Puzhankara, social activist.

Former Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, former Law Minister M. Vijayakumar, and Communist Party of India (Marxist) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan were the other respondents in the case.

In his petition, Mr. Puzhankara alleged that Mr. Achuthanandan had sought the service of private law practitioners when the State government had “enough number of government pleaders” to represent it in the apex court. For one, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government had spent Rs.15 lakh from the treasury just to procure legal opinion in the ice-cream parlour sex-scandal case.

The petitioner said the State government had given Rs.5 lakh from the treasury to argue in court that a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry was not necessary in the SNC-Lavalin corruption case in which Mr. Vijayan was an accused. He alleged that the State had caused wrongful loss to the taxpayer by seeking to save its “political member from a CBI inquiry using public money.”

He said the LDF government had bypassed State lawyers and gave its brief to private law practitioners in the Merchiston Estate land-grab case, the lottery case against Santiago Martin, the Kovalam Palace case, the self-financing colleges case, the Athirappilly hydropower project case and the palm oil case. The court ordered the VACB to file its report on or before October 20, 2013.

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