Kochi: A many as 343 sittings, 214 witnesses, and their statements running into 8,464 pages, apart from 972 documents as evidence! Justice G. Sivarajan Judicial Commission probing the solar scam, faced with this deluge of inconclusive information, patiently put together the pieces of evidence to reach a prima facie conclusion on one of the biggest scandals that rocked the state.
The one-man Commission’s main task was to ascertain whether former chief minister Oommen Chandy and his office had direct involvement in the multi-crore financial fraud.
Sreedharan Nair’s statement
From the very beginning, Oommen Chandy maintained that he had never met Saritha S. Nair, a key accused in the case. The Commission refuted that claim by verifying the statement given by R. Sreedharan Nair, a complainant in a solar scam-related cheating case, that he, along with Saritha, had visited the chief minister at his office in the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram on July 9, 2012.
Babu Prasad, a Congress leader and relative of Sreedharan Nair, testified before the Commission that the latter was not a person who would lie for personal gains. Nair also stated that Saritha had handed over a cover to the chief minister in his presence, which she claimed, was a demand draft of Rs. 2 lakh to the chief minister’s Relief Fund. A receipt was given for the money handed over as a contribution from her company, he deposed before the panel.
A letter drafted on the same date, in which the chief minister addressed him as ‘Dear R. B. Nair’, was also submitted before the Commission by the petitioner.
The Sivarajan Commission also examined and confirmed the authenticity of the statement given by E. K. Baburaj, one of the main investors in the solar project, that he obtained a letter from Oommen Chandy with the help of Saritha and used it to force revenue authorities to complete the survey of his land in two days after the former asked him to wait for four months. The tahsildar’s statement before the Commission corroborated this claim.
Aryadan’s audio clip
The Commission also received a copy of the audio tape in which the then power minister Aryadan Muhammed was heard mentioning the name of Saritha Nair at a public function held in Kodimatha in Kottayam. As per the Commission’s findings, there was evidence of Aryadan admitting that it was Oommen Chandy who introduced Saritha to him.
Partners in crime
Though both Biju Radhakrishan and Saritha presented contradictory versions of events on many occasions, both of them stood firmly by their statement that they handed over the first installment of Rs 1.1 crore to a New Delhi-based businessman and Chandy's associate, Thomas Kuruvila, for promoting their solar energy business.
The call records of Saritha, compiled by the special investigation team and submitted before the Commission, revealed that all the Congress leaders, apart from Oommen Chandy, whose names were mentioned in the controversial letter written by Saritha, were in constant touch with her before the cases against her surfaced.
The Commission also took into account the statement given by Oommen Chandy’s gunman Salim Raj that most of the incoming calls made to his phones by Saritha were to talk to Chandy. Though the Commission could not find any evidence of the chief minister contacting Saritha directly over the phone, testimonies confirmed that she was in constant touch with those around him, referring to the the access she enjoyed with the chief minister.
The Commission also examined the leaked telephonic conversations between Chandy's confidants and senior Congress leaders Thampanoor Ravi and Benny Behanan and Saritha in which the duo was heard cajoling her to refrain from giving statements against the former chief minister.
In their defense, Oommen Chandy and the co-accused argued that evidence for demanding money was essential to prove the corruption charges leveled against them. Also, the state government had suffered no financial loss from the solar contract, they claimed.