Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on January 25 said he would not scurry for legal cover from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) enquiry slapped on him and other Congress leaders by the Pinarayi Vijayan government.
Instead, he would meet the “false charges” head-on. Mr. Chandy said he would neither move for anticipatory bail nor seek legal recourse to stop the CBI probe.
The Cabinet had authorised the CBI to probe the nearly six-year-old “sexual favours for official patronage” case against a galaxy of Congress leaders, including Mr. Chandy, last week.
The news of the impending CBI probe broke on January 24 soon after the All India Congress Committee (AICC) had tapped Mr. Chandy to lead the party’s State unit into the electoral fray.
A woman accused of defrauding scores of citizens of their life savings by persuading them to invest in a non-existent solar power generation scheme during the tenure of the previous Oommen Chandy government is the complainant in the case.
The alleged victim had cultivated several influential ruling front politicians and functionaries in the Chief Minister Office (CMO) to get the government’s imprimatur for her commercial foray into the then nascent non-conventional and renewable energy sector in Kerala. The so-called “solar scam” had rocked the previous United Democratic Front (UDF) government.
Mr. Chandy appeared to strike a combative tone when he met reporters at his residence in Thiruvananthapuram. He said political spite stemming from an innate fear of defeat in the Assembly elections had prompted the government to resurrect disproven claims of sexual exploitation against the Congress leadership.
All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary K.C. Venugopal, former Ministers Adoor Prakash and A.P. Anil Kumar, Hiby Eden, MP and Abdullah Kutty, currently a top functionary of the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP), are the other respondents in the case.
Mr. Chandy said the government had sat on the charges for five years. Multiple officers had found no merit in the accusations.
The Crime Branch had registered a case of rape against Mr. Chandy and others in 2018 based on the woman’s averments. However, the case had come to a dead end. None of the Congress leaders sought anticipatory bail or moved the High Court to quash the FIR.
“The police could have arrested us at any time. But they did not. Investigators knew the case had no legal merit,” he said.
“The political import of the CBI case is not lost on the people. It is an attempt to tarnish the Congress on the eve of the elections. The cynical attempt to cast a slur on opposition leaders would backfire on the government,” Mr. Chandy said.
The case has its provenance in a damning observation by the judicial commission appointed by Mr. Chandy to probe the “solar scam”.
The commission had recommended that the police probe those persons named by the woman as her sexual exploiters. It concluded that demanding and accepting sexual favours for official patronage tantamount to illegal gratification under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The Pinarayi Vijayan government, which came to power in 2016, tabled the “incriminating” report in the Assembly and accepted its recommendations. It initially ordered a Crime Branch investigation. Later, the alleged victim moved the government seeking a CBI enquiry stating that the crime spanned Kerala, New Delhi and other States.