Kochi: In strong remarks against the office of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, the High Court on Friday held that authorities at the helm of affairs in the state have not been "prudent and responsible" in appointing personal staff with integrity and character.
"The Chief Minister's office should be a model institution serving the people of the State", Justice Harun-Ul-Rashid said, ordering a fresh CBI probe in two land grabbing cases against Salim Raj, former gunman of the CM.
Delivering the 132-page judgement while allowing petitions in the land grabbing cases in Thrikkakara and Kadakkampally in Thiruvananthapuram, the court said the CBI probe should be completed in nine months.
Besides the two cases, a criminal case was registered against Salim Raj for kidnapping by Kozhikode Police last year Pointing to the involvement of another personal staff of Chief Minister in a Solar panel scam case in which Saritha Nair is a key accused, the court held that all the incidents have "evoked shock and surprise" among people of the state.
The alleged involvement of members of the personal staff of the Chief Minister's office in criminal acts has come to the attention of this court at multiple instances, it held. This shows that "the authorities at the helm of affairs of the administration in the state have not been prudent and responsible in appointing personal staff with integrity and character", the court observed.
"The above incidents have raised serious questions on the functioning of the Chief Minister's office for which the Chief minister is answerable to the State", Justice Harun Al Rashid said. The court held that prima facie evidence of the presence of "unscrupulous elements" among personal staff in the Chief Minister's office and associated criminal activities in these cases calls for a "thorough and independent" investigation.
"Serious allegations' have been made against the accused of colluding and conspiring with Revenue Department officials in forging and fabricating false documents and records for the purpose of defeating the title of the petitioners," it said.
The court said it was evident from records that Salim Raj, now under suspension and described by the petitioners as "gang leader of the land mafia" and his associates had held multiple meetings with landowners and had pressurised them to part with the land.
Salim Raj had also allegedly threatened the petitioners with dire consequences if their demands were denied. The same team was involved in both incidents and the method of operation was also same, the court pointed out.
The court held that a direction for CBI investigation was necessary since offences have been made out prima facie by several persons, including higher officials and persons capable of wielding high influence and pressure in the field of administration.
The state government had expressed no objection in ordering CBI probe, the court held. It directed police officers in charge of investigation and the revenue officials to hand over all the case records, including vigilance enquiry report to CBI which shall commence further investigation and complete the same in nine months. CBI should register FIR in Kadakampally case since no FIR was registered pursuant to the complaints.
The probe agency shall investigate the case from all angles, take assistance of the petitioners, Revenue Intelligence, Vigilance and Anti corruption Bureau, Police and other agencies and submit a final report to the jurisdictional court. The Investigating Officers can also peruse all documents produced in the cases, the court held.