Kerala

Revelations on bar bribery stir up a controversy

Kerala Bar Hotel Association (KBHA) former working president Biju Ramesh attempted to stir up a controversy on Monday by accusing Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan of stopping dead the anti-corruption investigation against former Finance Minister and Kerala Congress (M) leader K.M. Mani.

In the same breath, Mr. Ramesh also accused Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala of accepting a bribe of ₹1 crore from the KBHA to roll back a proposed bar licence fee hike during the previous Oommen Chandy government.

Mr. Ramesh said Mr. Vijayan had urged him not to backtrack on his complaint that the KBHA had bribed Mani to expedite the renewal of 418 bar licences the previous United Democratic Front (UDF) government had annulled on the ground that the hotels did not meet the minimum two-star standard. However, as Chief Minister in 2018, Mr. Vijayan abruptly reversed his position after he met Mani for breakfast at his residence. “The Chief Minister ordered the investigation halted,” Mr. Ramesh said.

Mr. Ramesh said the LDF and the UDF were two sides of the same coin. “One covered up the corruption of the other when they came to power alternately,” he alleged.

Soon, BJP State president K. Surendran echoed a similar sentiment and demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the scandal that rocked the previous UDF government.

Mr. Ramesh’s simultaneous attack on the UDF and the LDF triggered intense speculation that he was prosecuting the political interest of the BJP. However, he denied the accusation.

Other charges

Mr. Ramesh also alleged that Mr. Chennithala’s wife had “begged” him not to depose against her husband in court. Soon, Mr. Chennithala followed suit. Hence, he deposed only against the then Excise Minister K. Babu. He also accused Kerala Congress (M) leader Jose K. Mani, MP, of offering him ₹10 crore to withdraw his complaint against K.M. Mani.

Mr. Chennithala has since denied the allegation. He also threatened to sue Mr. Ramesh for defamation if he did not withdraw the statement and render a public apology.

LDF convener A. Vijayaraghavan said Mr. Vijayan never interfered in the legal process.

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Printable version | Jan 15, 2021 9:40:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/revelations-on-bar-bribery-stir-up-a-controversy/article33162654.ece

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