Decks cleared for CBI probe in Date Centre case

Accepting the Kerala Advocate General’s statement that his submissions before the High Court of Kerala for a CBI probe into handing over of the State Data Centre to the Reliance group in 2008 was based on instructions he received from Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a petition filed by T.G. Nandakumar.

A Bench of Justices H.L. Dattu and Ranjan Gogoi, after hearing senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the State of Kerala, and senior counsel Nagendra Rai for the petitioner, dismissed the petition after taking on record the AG’s affidavit. The Bench told the counsel that after the AG had explained his position, nothing survived in the petition.

The probe pertains to the role of former Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, Mr. Nandakumar (who was alleged to have facilitated in the award of tender), and three others in the award of tender for IT services management consisting of operations, maintenance, upgrade, security audit, and certification of the State Data Centre and three Network Operating Centres.

In his affidavit, the AG said the writ petition came up for admission in the Kerala High Court on February 6, 2012 and it was adjourned to February 23 to enable him to seek instructions. Thereafter, he wrote to the Chief Secretary, with copies marked to the Secretary, Vigilance Department, the Director General of Police, and the Director, Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau, for instructions for the purpose of defending the case.

On February 23, the AG said, he was informed over the phone by the Chief Minister to report to the court that the State government would entrust the investigation of the case in question to the CBI. He said that “based on the said instruction given to me by the Chief Minister, I made a submission before the High Court on February 23 to the effect that a decision is already taken at the government level to hand over the case to the CBI, recording which, the writ petition was closed.”

In his affidavit, the State Chief Secretary also pressed for a CBI probe. He said the State Cabinet had rejected the advice of Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati against instituting a CBI inquiry in the case.

The Attorney-General had instead suggested that the State government go for a Vigilance probe first. But the affidavit, he said, sought to correct him saying the Vigilance had already looked into the matter. It also recalled that the State government was favourably disposed to the option of a CBI inquiry from as early as February last year. This was based on exchange of views between and collective decision by Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, who is in charge of Vigilance, and Information Technology Minister P.K. Kunhalikutty.

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