Kochi

Crime Branch awaits LSGD nod to prosecute ex-panchayat head

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Cases related to construction of flats violating CRZ norms

K.A. Devassy, the former president of Maradu panchayat and the present Opposition leader of Maradu municipality, found himself in a spot after the Crime Branch sought permission from the Local Self-Government Department (LSGD) to prosecute him in all three cases the agency has registered in connection with the construction of apartment complexes in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms at Maradu.

Mr. Devassy had all along claimed that he had no role in the issue and that the responsibility rests with those who approved the plan. When contacted, Mr. Devassy reiterated his stance and claimed that he knew nothing about the Crime Branch move to prosecute him.

“We had approached the LSGD three weeks ago seeking permission to arraign him in the cases and initiate prosecution measures. We are still awaiting a response. Once permission is received, we will summon him for interrogation and initiate prosecution measures,” said a senior Crime Branch official who also claimed that the investigation agency had gathered more than sufficient evidence against the former president.

Statements collected

The Crime Branch remains optimistic of wrapping up the investigation in a couple of months. “We have so far been able to collect the statements of only about half of the 250-odd apartment owners as the rest were unavailable owing to various reasons. The statements of the rest of the owners will be collected soon,” an officer with the investigation team said.

So far, the agency has questioned over 100 persons in each of the three cases, including 22 former panchayat members.

The Crime Branch had registered cases against the builders of H2O Holy Faith, Alpha Serene and Jain Coral Cove based on the petition by apartment owners after the city police had transferred to the agency the three First Information Reports they had registered against the builders.

So far, the agency has arraigned four accused, including builder Sandeep Mehta, in the case of Jain Coral Cove; five, including builder Paul Raj and the architect who drew the plan, in the case of Alpha Serene; and four, including builder Sani Francis, in the case of H20 Holy Faith. Mohammed Ashraf, a former panchayat secretary; P.E. Joseph, former Maradu panchayat junior superintendent; and Jayaram Naik, a former UD clerk in Maradu panchayat have been arraigned as accused in all three cases.

Arrests

The Crime Branch had arrested all the accused except Mehta who was reportedly in Chennai and could not be traced.

All the accused are now out on bail. The cases were shifted to the Vigilance Court in Muvattupuzha after the Crime Branch invoked the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Though Mehta secured anticipatory bail from the Madras High Court, the Crime Branch got it overturned after getting Tamil Nadu State Public Prosecutor A. Natarajan to appear on behalf of Kerala.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 9:52:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/crime-branch-awaits-lsgd-nod-to-prosecute-ex-panchayat-head/article30481929.ece

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