Life Mission: Kerala govt moves SC against CBI investigation

New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government has approached the Supreme Court challenging an order of the Kerala High Court dismissing pleas seeking quashing of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into Kerala LIFE Mission project in Wadakkacherry in Thrissur district.

Filing the appeal in the apex court, the state said the Foreign Currency Regulation Act (FCRA) norms are not applicable to the government.

The State also alleged that the CBI probe is a politically motivated investigation.

The LIFE (Livelihood, Inclusion and Financial Empowerment) Mission, the state government's flagship housing project for the homeless, ran into trouble after Anil Akkara, Congress MLA for Wadakkanchery, filed a complaint before the CBI stating that the project violated FCRA rules.

Based on the complaint, the CBI registered a FIR under Section 35 read with Section 3 of the FCRA and Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code arraying the managing directors of Unitac - Santosh Eappen - and Sane Ventures as accused. As the third accused, the FIR mentioned "unknown public servants/private citizens".

Seeking to quash the FIR, the Life Mission agency approached the High Court saying the CBI cannot register the case directly without the consent of the state government. It also claimed that the FCRA was not applicable to the transaction, as government agencies are exempted from the ambit of the act.

Further, the LIFE Mission did not receive any amount from UAE Red Crescent, and the contributions were given to the private contractor, which is also exempted from the FCRA being consideration received for contractual work, it claimed.

The Life Mission CEO and Eappen had moved separate pleas in the high court submitting that the FIR was “illegal, arbitrary and nothing but an abuse of the process of law and is, therefore, liable to be quashed".

However, the Kerala High Court on Tuesday dismissed the petitions challenging the CBI investigation into alleged irregularities in 'Life Mission'.

Life Mission in Assembly

Earlier in the day, the opposition Congress led-United Democratic Front had staged a walkout from the Kerala Assembly after the Speaker denied permission for an adjournment motion to discuss alleged irregularities in the state-run Life Mission's housing project at Wadakkacherry.

Congress legislator Anil Akkara, who moved the motion, sought a discussion alleging that the Chief Minister's Office and top government officials were involved in the corruption in the project.

However, Local Self Government minister A C Moideen denied the charges and said the opposition was indulging in defaming the 'prestigious' housing project for the poor.

"There are attempts to defame the Life Mission. In this particular project, there is no financial responsibility for the state government. The government is conducting a vigilance enquiry to probe the allegations against the officials. Neither the Life Mission nor the state government had received any funds from abroad," Moideen said.

Moideen pointed out that the high court had dismissed the charges raised by the opposition against the political leadership.

The Minister also said the "hollowness" of the allegation was evident as the people of Vadakkencherry voted the LDF to power in the recent local body polls, despite all the accusations levelled by the Congress.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala said, if probed properly, many senior government officials would be behind bars.

Chennithala alleged that at least Rs 9.5 crore commission has been paid in the project.

"The government has announced a vigilance probe to stop the CBI probe in the matter. The high court allowing the CBI to continue with the probe is a tight slap on the face of the government. But the government is still maintaining that the HC order was not against the state government," Chennithala said.

As the Speaker refused to grant nod for discussion of the adjournment motion, the Opposition staged a walkout.

(With inputs from PTI and LiveLaw)

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