KERALA

Former CPI(M) MLA acquitted in `Manichan payoffs' case

Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Vigilance Special Court here has acquitted the former CPI(M) MLA Kadakampally Surendran in the "payoffs" case in which he stood accused of taking a bribe of Rs.50,000 from the abkari contractor Manichan.

The Vigilance & Anti-Corruption Bureau here had registered the case in January 2001, after Manichan figured as the main accused in the Kalluvathukkal liquor tragedy that claimed 32 lives in October 2000. It was based mainly on an unbound account book seized by the Income Tax Department during a raid on the contractor's premises in 1999.

The prosecution charge was that when he was Kazhakuttam MLA from 1996 to 2000, Mr. Surendran took the money from Manichan or his brother Sunilduth on September 6, 1999 as a reward for favours done to the contractor for the smooth running of his illicit liquor business.

The judge, M.S. Mohanachandran, noted that there was absolutely no evidence to show that the entry in Manichan's account book represented an "honest or real transaction, or that the money was actually paid in accordance with the entry."

The judge said it was proved that the entry was made in a book of accounts regularly maintained by the contractor in the course of business, though this book was in the form of a bundle of loose sheets of paper. However, there was nothing in evidence to show that the "Kadakampally" referred to was Mr. Surendran.

Even if it was assumed that it was Mr. Surendran, such an entry alone was not sufficient evidence to charge the accused with liability. Even correct and authentic entries in books of account could not fix liability on a person without independent evidence of their trustworthiness. No prosecution witness had stated that he heard or saw Mr. Surendran demanding or accepting payment from Manichan or anyone else.

Mr. Surendran had stated before the High Court that he took Rs.50,000 on September 6, 1999 as contribution to the campaign expenses of Varkala Radhakrishnan. The prosecution's contention was that this was sufficient proof of his having accepted the money. The judge noted that in the statement made by Mr. Surendran before the High Court, nowhere was it said that he took Rs.50,000 from Manichan on that day.