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Last Updated Wednesday August 15 2018 10:36 AM IST

HC verdict, huge relief for Chandy, blow to LDF govt

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HC verdict, huge relief for Chandy, blow to LDF govt

Thiruvananthapuram: The High Court’s order expunging the allegations raised by Saritha S Nair, a key accused in the Solar scam, through a letter which was part of the Justice G Sivarajan Commission's findings, came as a big relief for former chief minister Oommen Chandy even as the verdict delivered a resounding blow to Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government.

It was based on the findings of the Justice Sivarajan Commission, which relied heavily on the controversial letter dated July 17, 2013, that the chief minister announced a probe into criminal cases of corruption and sexual allegations against government officials and politicians including Oommen Chandy.

The verdict came at a time when a conspiracy was being hatched at the police headquarters to implicate some of the top-rung Congress leaders in the case. The court order apparently drove the final nail into the coffin of the LDF government’s hope of indicting political rivals in the sexual harassment case. The government had been hesitating to follow up on its decision to criminally investigate UDF leaders in connection with the scam following allegations that the commission had gone beyond its terms of reference.

With the court observing that the sexual content of the letter had no nexus with the terms of reference, the commission’s controversial decision to include the letter as a piece of evidence in its report was also rendered null and void.

The Special Investigation Team constituted to probe into the criminal charges against Oommen Chandy and the other accused has been remaining headless since the retirement of Rajesh Dewan, former director general of police (North Kerala), on April 30. Currently, IG Dinendra Kashyap is in charge of the investigation.

Earlier, state police chief Loknath Behera had sought permission from the government to conduct an inquiry into the fresh complaint filed by Saritha Nair with the chief minister. In the order to constitute the SIT, it was made clear that the squad could pursue any fresh complaint which comes up before it during the course of the investigation.

The adverse remarks against Oommen Chandy in Solar Commission’s report was based on the letter submitted by Saritha Nair. Overstepping its jurisdiction, the government made the Advocate General and the Director of Prosecutions to give their legal opinion in writing on matters that did not feature in the commission’s findings and decided to have VACB inquiry.

While announcing the probe, the chief minister stated that cases would be registered against Oommen Chandy and the other accused based on Saritha's letter which claimed she was sexually exploited. It was reiterated in the order issued by the Home Department in November to announce the formation of the SIT as well.

The chief minister also informed the Assembly that an inquiry would be conducted into the allegations that the persons who were named in the letter contacted Saritha and her counsel over the phone in an attempt to sabotage the probe.

With the High Court expunging the findings based on the letter, there will be no further investigation into any of those charges levelled against Congress leaders.

In the legal advice rendered by former judge of the Supreme Court Arijit Pasayat to the government, it was mentioned that the commission did not have the jurisdiction to recommend criminal prosecution, and it is up to the SIT to decide whether to pursue the case. Following which the proceedings in the case came to a standstill as the SIT chose not to register a single case against any of the accused. The squad did nothing as part of the investigation other than re-recording Saritha’s statements about one-and-a-half months ago.

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