Kerala Kaumudi Online
Friday, 22 January 2021 3.36 PM IST

Probe into Life Mission scam: CBI’s path cleared 


Kerala High court has given the nod to the CBI for going ahead with probe into the corruption case related to Life Mission housing project at Wadakkancherry in Thrissur.
The controversy had been plaguing the Kerala politics for the past more than four months.
The state government, on Tuesday, suffered a setback in the case pertaining to the Life Mission, a state housing project envisaging total housing for the homeless.
The Kerala High Court rejected the pleas of the government and UNITAC builders against the CBI probe, saying that the CBI can go forward with the investigation against the government.
The high court action came was after it found prima facie lapses in the procedures in the project. The court also rejected government's plea to be a party in the case.

The CBI had earlier registered a case in Life Mission, and was proceeding with the probe. But, UNITAC and the government approached the court seeking cancellation of it, following which the high court stayed the CBI probe for two months. However, Tuesday’s order seems to have vindicated CBI’s arguments.

The government argued in court that the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act or FCRA rules had not been violated in Life Project. However, the CBI defended it saying that that vigilance probe against officials was itself proof of irregularities in the project. The CBI convinced the court that stays in the probe against government officials was affecting the progress of case.

The CBI had filed an FIR in a Kochi court under Section 120 B of the IPC and Section 35 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 on a complaint by Wadakancherry MLA Anil Akkara, listing Santosh Eappen, Managing Director of Unitac Builder, Kochi, as the first accused and Sane Ventures as the second accused.

Life Mission CEO U V Jose had filed the plea requesting to quash the FIR registered by the CBI regarding the Life Mission project in Wadakkancherry. He argued that the FIR mentioning that Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act was violated is legally invalid.

The Life Mission officials also alleged that the Life Mission was dragged into the case unnecessarily. But, the CBI argued that an underworld transaction took place on the pretext of the project and the accused in gold smuggling case also are involved in the same.

The state government on its own had handed over the probe into the bribery scandal to the state vigilance unit. A vigilance case was registered against officials including Shivshankar, who was the principal secretary to the chief minister.

The construction of a flat complex in Wadakancherry, which was started for the poor homeless in Thrissur district, is now stalled due to a corruption controversy.

Many things remain problematic, including poor quality of construction.

The poor who have been waiting for the construction to be completed must be saddened by their plight and are disillusioned.

The Red Crescent, a UAE-based NGO that donated Rs 20 crore to build the flat complex, may also be disappointed.

On the other hand there are some officials who have no qualms in looting even the poor.
While the case and the investigation are going on one side, the parallel efforts should be made by the government to complete the construction of the flat anyway.
The government should also come forward to sort out legal issues, if any.

The court does not consider the government or the cabinet to have erred in this case.

It was officials and middlemen who had have found a way to fulfill selfish interests.

There is no need to oppose the central agency probing the case and bringing to justice all the accused involved in corruption. The CBI is not far behind in conducting an honest and credible investigation.
Earlier, it was found that the accused in the case had embezzled more than Rs 5 crore out of the Rs 20 crore donated by the Red Crescent for the construction of houses for the homeless poor. Two hundred flats were originally intended, but the flats were reduced to 140 after more than a quarter of the donation was bribed. There are allegations that the quality of construction has declined accordingly.

The Life Mission bribery case is the best example of how bureaucrats can dig a government’s grave. They are people who find ways for taking using the projects taken up by the government with good intention. Such officials will always look for scope for bribery.

It is the duty of the government to corner such people and block their ill motives.

But it did not happen in the case of Life Mission project.
This is because officials who appeared to be trusted government servants were in the forefront of the project.
But the government tried to sabotage the CBI probe as if to protect the officials. And this is the reason for the controversy that ensued.

In the case where charges under Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) is also levelled, the State government also committed a flaw in viewing the Central Agency’s interference as just politically motivated.

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