Ebrahim Kunju denied bail by Kerala HC in flyover scam case

Ebrahim Kunju denied bail by Kerala HC in flyover scam case
V K Ebrahim Kunju

Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Monday rejected the bail application of former Public Works Minister V.K. Ibrahim Kunju, an accused in the Palarivattom bridge graft case. 

The court, however, granted Kunju, an IUML MLA, the liberty to file a fresh bail application once he was discharged from the hospital, where he is now undergoing treatment for cancer while under judicial custody.

He had approached the court stating that the advance payment to contractors was not ‘unusual or new.’ The bail application also said the arrest was politically motivated as the Assembly elections were imminent. 

He stated in the bail application that the request for the advance payment was approved as it was in proper format and was accompanied by recommendations from two IAS officers. 

The government’s case is that Ebrahim Kunju was part of a conspiracy at Mascot Hotel in Thiruvananthapuram on June 17, 2013, wherein it was decided that the contract be awarded to a company called RDS. 

The state attorney argued that there there was no legal provision to make an advance payment. He also argued that there was no contract clause in this regard and the PWD had not sought the opinion of the Law Department. 

Arguments of Ebrahim Kunju

The ex-Minister said he was under treatment for a ‘severe illness’ from April. He was taking 22 medicines. The company sought advance amount as the project completion deadline was advanced. The formalities in the Secretariat was completed and the fund was allotted, he said adding all officers had signed off on it. 

The court sought to know if it did not need the Law Department’s approval. The Minister said a Law Department approval was needed only if the officials pointed to any discrepancies. To this, Justice P.V. Kunhikrishnan asked if the Minister was a mere rubber stamp. 

The state government argued that it was essential to question the ex-Minister. A lot of documents needed to be examined. All these were difficult even if the minister was discharged and let off. The state government’s contention is that RDS was not the lowest bidder and there are irregularities in the awarding of the contract. 

The state also said the advance payout was connected to the deposits in IUML mouthpiece ‘Chandrika.’ 

Kunju, arrested on November 18 in connection with alleged corruption in the construction of a flyover here during the previous Congress-led UDF rule, moved the high court after a Vigilance Court in Muvattupuzha dismissed his bail application recently.

He was quizzed by the VACB sleuths at the private hospital where his arrest was recorded following which a magistrate visited the premises and remanded him to judicial custody. Kunju, representing Kalamassery constituency in the state assembly, was interrogated multiple times in the past by the agency in connection with the case. The Vigilance has alleged Kunju, then the Public Works Department Minister, sanctioned interest-free funds to the contracting company, which had built the flyover, now closed after it developed cracks within a year of its inauguration in 2016. The arrest came eight months after he was arraigned as an accused in the case.

Kunju has dismissed as "politically motivated" the charges that he was responsible for the poor quality of the bridge, built when he was the PWD minister in the previous UDF government headed by Oommen Chandy.  

(With inputs from PTI)

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