HC orders Vigilance to return Rs 47 lakh to IMUL leader KM Shaji on bank guarantee

IUML leader KM Shaji. Photo: Manorama

Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Tuesday ordered the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) to return the Rs 47 lakh, which it seized in a disproportionate wealth case, to Muslim League leader K M Shaji on furnishing a bank guarantee and executing a bond for the amount. While considering Shaji's plea on Tuesday, the court held that the amount could be released to the petitioner, with the conditions to ensure recovery of the amount if he was later found guilty. 

Justice Ziyad Rahman passed the order on a petition filed by Shaji demanding that the agency return the Rs 47,35,500 seized from his residence alleging he had amassed wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income. The bench further directed the Vigilance to stop immediately the procedure to confiscate his assets.

"When it comes to the question of the release of the articles in favour of the accused, the court should adopt a more cautious approach and should ensur thatsufficient safeguards are put in place to recover the article or amount when the necessity arises. This is particularly because, until the trial is completed and the accused is found guilty, the allegations based on which the recovery of such articles was made are mere accusations yet to be proved. Therefore, depriving a person of his articles or amounts on mere accusations until the same are properly proved through the fact-finding mechanism of the trial is not justifiable," the Court observed.

Shaji had earlier approached the Vigilance court seeking the return of the money seized by the officials. He claimed that the money was part of the election fund. But the court refused to hand over it citing irregularities in documents.

The High Court on April 13 quashed the FIR filed by the VACB in a 2020 bribery case against Shaji. As per the case, the Muslim League leader had accepted a bribe of Rs 25 lakh to obtain approval for the higher secondary batch in Azhikode school in 2013. The case was registered over a complaint filed by CPM leader Kuduvan Padmanabhan who was the former president of the Kannur block panchayat.
It was during the investigation into this case that the Vigilance raided Shaji's house.

(with inputs from Live Law)

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