CM Pinarayi's 'don't question me' statement leaves Vigilance confused

CM Pinarayi's 'don't question me' statement leaves Vigilance confused
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. File photo

Thiruvananthapuram: "Don't even think of questioning me." This statement of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has left the Vigilance Department confused.

The Vigilance got to hear it as it was taking its first steps to start investigations into the alleged irregularities in the Life Mission flats project in Thrissur's Wadakkanchery. The Vigilance is in the 'preliminary investigation stage' on whether the statement was aimed at the media, the people or the department itself.

In its preliminary investigation in the case, the Vigilance will look into the alleged irregularities in the Life Mission project, the payment of commissions by the company that won the construction contract, the role of M Sivasankar, the former principal secretary to the Chief Minister, and the dealings of Swapna Suresh, the main accused in the gold smuggling case.

A team led by Kottayam Vigilance SP V G Vinod Kumar is in charge of the investigation. The Vigilance head has given him the permission to include all those he would need in the team.

The chief minister is the chairman of the Life Mission scheme and the Local Government Minister is the deputy chairman.

The Life Mission had signed the MoU worth Rs 20 crore for the Wadakkanchery project with Red Crescent of the UAE in the presence of the chief minister and other big shots in the administration. Even though the MoU said that there would be follow-up agreements, no such deal was signed.

Instead, there was a subcontract with a company in Kochi. The company's owner told the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that it had paid a commission of Rs 4.5 crore to get the construction contract for the project.

John Brittas, the chief minister's media adviser, even revealed in the party's (CPM's) channel where the money was handed over. So then he should also be among those to be questioned.

The Kottayam SP has to conduct a serious investigation into the case which stretches all the way from the UAE to Wadakkanchery. Irrespective of whether there is truth in the claims of his colleagues that he is very close to the government, the fact remains that many at the highest level of the government will have to be questioned if the truth in the case has to come out.

The contradiction is that the Vigilance under the Home Department headed by the chief minister is investigating irregularities in the Mission of which he is the chairman.

The Vigilance director will have to submit the investigation report to the Home secretary, who will then hand it over to the chief minister. The government can reject or accept the preliminary report. For the time being, it is just an investigation being conducted on the advice of higher officials in police.

CBI joins investigation

The CBI has started collecting preliminary details about the Life Mission project. It has received a complaint saying that there has been a corruption of Rs 9 crore in the scheme. The complaint alleges that there has been a violation of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA).

The CBI does not need the preliminary permission of the central or state government to register a case under FCRA. It is sufficient for it to seek permission at the time of filing the charge sheet if it finds officials are involved.

The permission of the central government is required to receive any kind of assistance from a foreign country. The Centre’s stand is that the project does not need foreign aid. So, how the state accepted the aid from the UAE-based Red Crescent will also come under the purview of the investigation.

As agreements with foreign countries are governed by the Union List, the MoU with Red Crescent requires the approval of the Centre. The UAE Consulate and construction company Unitac have no authority to enter into contracts without the approval of the Centre.

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