BREAKING: Kerala High Court dismisses petitions challenging CBI probe into Kerala government's LIFE Mission Project
Kerala Life Mission

BREAKING: Kerala High Court dismisses petitions challenging CBI probe into Kerala government's LIFE Mission Project

A bench of Justice P Somarajan pronounced judgment in the matter today.

The Kerala High Court on Tuesday dismissed pleas seeking quashing of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into Kerala LIFE Mission project (Chief Executive Officer v. CBI, Santhosh Eappen v. Union of India).

A bench of Justice P Somarajan pronounced judgment in the matter today.

While the bench observed that it appeared that the officers involved in the implementation of the project were pursuing a hidden agenda through the project, the Court made clear that liability for such mischief could not be extended to the political executive unless the breach was brought to their notice in writing or they received a personal benefit from the mischief.

Justice Somarajan remarked "the implementation of project or policy decisions may not by itself make them responsible for any criminal liability especially in a case of this nature wherein a well-designed and intelligent and hidden agenda was scrupulously employed by the civil servants in connivance with the middle men, the consulate general of UAE Trivandrum, Kerala, unless it was known or made known to them with its legal consequences, specifically in writing by the civil servants who are bound to do it by exercising a healthy confrontation."

Describing the scheme as an intellectual fraud played in furtherance of MoU so as to avoid audit by CAG and to get kickbacks and gratifications, the Court expressed that the nature of the Memorandum of Understanding entered into between the UAE Consulate and the State of Kerala was substantially a concluded contract.

The Court therefore opined that the Memorandum was not entered into in accordance with Article 299 of the Constitution, which pertains to government contracts. The same was done to avoid audit by the CAG, the Bench has stated.

The LIFE Mission, Kerala government’s flagship housing project, ran into trouble after Anil Akkara, MLA for Wadakkanchery in Thrissur district filed a complaint stating that the LIFE Mission Project violated Foreign Currency Regulation Act (FCRA) norms. His specific complaint was against the project at his constituency at Wadakkanchery.

For the project, the State government had agreed to allot land to building contractors chosen by the donors. The project at Wadakkanchery was funded by the UAE consulate’s Red Crescent. Akkara claimed that the Kerala government obtained funds for Unitac builders (which was chosen as contractor) from Red Crescent, thereby, violating the FCRA.

The CBI proceeded to file an FIR pursuant to the complaint, naming Unitac’s Santhosh Eappen, Sane Ventures (another contractor), and “unnamed officials of the LIFE Mission project”.

There were charges that the LIFE Mission project was awarded to Eappen and Sane venture at the behest of former UAE Consulate employee and gold smuggling accused Swapna Suresh working with former Principal Secretary to the Kerala Chief Minister’s Office, M Sivasankar.

Shortly after the CBI’s FIR, the LIFE Mission CEO approached the Kerala High Court seeking quashing of the investigation. Close on the heels of the LIFE Mission plea, Eappen also filed a writ petition praying that the investigation against him and his company be quashed.

In October, the Kerala High Court admitted the case and granted a two-month interim stay on investigation in respect of the LIFE mission. The Court however refused to quash the probe against Eappen and Unitac.

The hearing saw detailed arguments by various counsel appearing in the case, which has been a political flash point between the Central and the State governments.

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Read the Judgment here:

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Chief Executive Officer v. CBI and Santhosh Eappen v. Union of India.pdf
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