Thiruvananthapuram: The sensational bar-bribery case, which soiled the image of then Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani and the previous UDF government (2011-16) alike, will be closed now with the death of the Kerala Congress leader.
KM Mani, 86, passed way at a hospital in Kochi on Tuesday evening.
Bar Hotel Owners Association president Biju Ramesh had alleged Mani had taken Rs 1 crore bribe to reopen bars closed by the Oommen Chandy government as part of its liquor policy. Jacob Thomas was the Vigilance DGP when the accusation was made against the then finance minister.
SP Sukeshan, who led the probe, had found circumstantial evidence against Mani. But when ADGP N Sankar Reddy replaced Jacob Thomas, Sukeshan’s report found no wrongdoing. The High Court ordered further investigation on the complainant’s request and made the comment – ‘Caesar's wife must be above suspicion’. This led to Mani’s resignation on November 10, 2015 - his last day as minister.
In February 2016, just before Assembly polls, Sukeshan tabled the second report exonerating Mani. But when the Left came to power months later, Jacob Thomas was made Vigilance director again. He sought a fresh report and curiously Sukeshan’s new report said there was evidence against Mani. The court ordered fresh probe over this report. But Jacob Thomas was sacked soon.
Mani had approached the High Court challenging the decision of the special court to allow a further investigation into the case. Subsequently, State Administrative Reforms Commission chairman V S Achuthanandan also moved a petition questioning the court directive to obtain prior government sanction for conducting a further investigation in the case.
Mani had by then distanced himself from the Congress-led UDF, prompting the Left to woo him. DGP Loknath Behra had the additional charge of Vigilance. Even when Mani came back to the UDF later, a September 2018 report found no fault on his part.
But the court refused to entertain this report and asked Biju Ramesh to approach the governor and state government’s approval to prosecute Mani. He then approached the High Court for an annulment. Governor Sadasivam agreed to wait until the court pronounces a verdict on this plea.
The bar bribery case is still in High Court.