Kuzhalnadan says vigilance case no strategic blunder, only way to pull up CM for corruption

Mathew Kuzhalnadan. File Photo: Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: A day after he suffered a setback from the Special Vigilance Court in Thiruvananthapuram, Congress legislator Mathew Kuzhalnadan on Tuesday maintained that he had done the right thing by moving the Vigilance Court seeking a probe into the bribery scandal involving Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's daughter.

First of all, he said the petition was not to put Pinarayi Vijayan behind bars. "I was only trying to say that corruption had taken place and, therefore, an investigation has to be conducted," Kuzhalnadan told reporters at the KPCC headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram. He said he had submitted 28-odd documents as preliminary evidence.

Secondly, he dismissed the charge that he had made a strategic blunder by moving the Vigilance Court. "The quasi-judicial forums that have examined the issue have all said that the corruption angle should be probed. But a corruption angle can be brought in only through a complaint lodged on the basis of the Prevention of Corruption Act," Kuzhalnadan said.

"We are not after Veena Vijayan or her company Exalogic. This is a corruption that involves the Chief Minister. To challenge this, we have to depend on a vigilance complaint and a Vigilance Court. Without these, you cannot approach the High Court directly. There are no other forums that directly take up such complaints. It is not as if I am oblivious of what would happen to a complaint forwarded to a Department directly under the control of Pinarayi Vijayan," he said.

The Congress legislator said the Vigilance Court order was disappointing but would not "destroy my confidence". "I will go ahead with my fight. I will note the portions in the judgement that I differ with and then file an appeal," he said.

Mining leases
In the case of the four mining licences given to Kerala Rare Earths and Minerals Limited (KREML), a sister concern of Cochin Minerals and Rutile Limited (CMRL), the court had said that corruption could not be inferred from the evidence provided by the petitioner.

Kuzhalnadan said that it was the Chief Minister's decision to seek legal opinion on the Central government's order to terminate all mining leases in the private sector that froze the cancellation of the four mining leases with the KREML. "It was cancelled only in 2023 when I filed a case. The leases were with the company for nearly four years after the 2019 central government order," Kuzhalnadan said. "I was only providing preliminary evidence that could persuade the court to order a probe into the issue," he said.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan; Veena T.

Excess land
Kuzhalnadan said that it was the "illegal file notings" of the Chief Minister that led to the KMREL holding on to excess land.

His charge is that though the Revenue Department had twice rejected KREML's request for exemption from the Land Reforms Act, the Chief Minister had asked the Department to reconsider the KREML's request. This third time, the company submitted a tourism proposal and a new District Planning Committee, headed by a "hand-picked collector", recommended exemption for the land from the purview of the Land Reforms Act.

The court said the Chief Minister could not be accused of exerting undue influence as the Land Board had rejected the recommendation. Kuzhalnadan's argument is that the land has still not been recovered.

Thottappally mining
Kuzhalnadan had argued that the CMRL was the direct beneficiary of the decision of the Chief Minister, as the chairman of the State Disaster Management Authority, to remove sand rich in ilmenite that clogged the Thottappally Spillway in the wake of the 2018 deluge. He said that even the CMRL's annual report stated that the mining of sand from Thottappally had reduced the cost of ilmenite and thus boosted the profits of the company.

The court, however, said that it could not find even a single scrap of paper that substantiates this contention. As evidence that sand was transported from Kerala Minerals and Metals (KMML), a government concern, to CMRL, Kuzhalnadan had submitted e-way bills of hundreds of trucks carrying sand from KMML to CMRL. But the court termed these as "unauthenticated abstracts of certain e-way bills".

Kuzhalnadan conceded that these were "unauthenticated" but said that the court could have called for the records and punished him if he had submitted fake records. The court also remarked that even if the trucks had moved to CMRL there was no proof to establish that it was ilmenite. Kuzhalnadan said that such a thing could be confirmed only by the collection of evidence, which in turn could be done only if a probe was ordered.

Ulterior motives
The Court had said that Kuzhalnadan's complaint was politically motivated. It said that Kuzhalnadan chose to complain only against the Chief Minister and his daughter when the report of the Income Tax Interim Settlement Board had mentioned the names of several other political leaders.

Kuzhalnadan said that his case was built only on the established fact that Veena Vijayan had secured money from the CMRL company when Pinarayi Vijayan was the Chief Minister. "That Veena had accepted monthly payments from CMRL is the only undisputed fact in the case as the transfer was done through banking channels. Even the CPM Secretariat has acknowledged it," he said.

However, the names of political leaders, including Pianrayi Vijayan, were part of diary notings. "The Supreme Court in its 'Jain hawala' verdict had said that diary notings would not be accepted as evidence," Kuzhalnadan said. "The Interim Settlement Board report has observed that most of the money given to politicians had gone to Pinarayi Vijayan. But I have not included this in my complaint," he said.

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