Thiruvananthapuram: In a setback to former Kerala Finance Minister KM Mani, a court here on Saturday ordered a third probe into the bar scam that took place in 2014. Mani, however, appears confident and hints at conspiracy to finish his party.
The Thiruvananthapuram Vigilance special court gave order the probe following a petition filed by the same investigating officer R Sukeshan who had earlier given clean chit to Mani.
Sukeshan in his petition this time has accused the then Vigilance Director-Additional Director General of police N Shankar Reddy of intervening to let Mani off while the report was being prepared.
Meanwhile, Mani speaking to reporters in Kottayam said, “Unless proved, one is presumed to be innocent. All these vindictive steps are being taken to finish off our party, but nothing of that sort is going to happen and we will emerge stronger.”
Reacting to the turn of events, State Congress president VM Sudheeran questioned the credibility of Sukeshan.
Sudheeran said:”It was this very same police officier who had given Mani a clean chit and now he says otherwise. Now that the court has decided for a further probe, in all fairness it would be better if a new officer leads it.”
While, Leader of Opposition and then Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said that he never intervened in the probe and always sought a fair and transparent investigation.
Former Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan in a statement issued here said that the need of the hour is to see that Shankar Reddy is kept out of service and a criminal case be registered against him.
” There is more to what we are seeing in this case and the then Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Chennithala also should be arraigned in the case as Reddy alone cannot cover up the earlier probe,” said Achuthanandan.
Chandy said none should forget that in both the previous occasions, the case was probed by Sukeshan and hence do not wish to say anything more.
Incidentally this is the third time that a probe has been ordered into the bar scam case, with the two previous probes giving Mani a clean chit.
The case began in October 2014 when Biju Ramesh a business man in the state capital who owns a string of bars had alleged that Mani had taken Rs one crore as bribe from Kerala’s bar owners to see that the 418 closed bars in the state were reopened.
Following a massive protest by the then Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) led Left opposition Mani had to quit as Minister last year, but he won a record 13th time from Pala assembly constituency in the May assembly elections, which gave him the confidence that the people had given him a clean chit.
The fresh direction from the court has come at a time when Kerala Congress ( Mani) the party led by Mani early this month decided to quit the Congress led UDF and has taken a position of maintaining an equi-distance stand from all the three political fronts in Kerala politics.
Both Congress and the UDF have strongly supported Mani ever since the scam broke and has always given him a clean chit.