Kochi: In some relief for Finance minister KM Mani, facing bribery charges in the bar bribe case, High Court Wednesday turned down the prayer for a CBI probe into the controversial scam, saying there was no ground at this stage to issue any direction to transfer it to the central probe agency.
"Investigation being still in progress and there being no material to come to the conclusion that Vigilance probe, now being carried out, was not free and impartial and the report of investigating agency was yet to be filed, we are of the view that at this stage no ground has been made out to issue any direction to transfer the case to CBI," a division bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice A M Shaffique said.
The bench stated this while closing the petition by AV Thamarakshan, General Secretary, Revolutionary Socialist Party of Kerala (Bolshevik).
'We cannot also draw any conclusion that the investigation is invariably delayed', the bench held.
Advocate General KP Dandapani had earlier submitted that the complainant in the scam Biju Ramesh,working President of Bar Owners Association, had been making disclosures on different occasions. Recently, he had submitted an audio tape which has to be scientifically examined. This was causing delay in the probe, he stated.
Ten witnesses had so far been examined by vigilance, the court was informed.
The petitioner submitted that 'inaction' on the part of Vigilance to conduct a fair probe into the alleged corruption was illegal.The audio tape released by Biju Ramesh also points to the allegations of corruption against Mani, it was stated.
According to the petitioner,neither Mani nor his relatives had been questioned in the case. No raid had been conducted at their residence so far in Pala, Kottayam where the bribe amount was allegedly handed over. Hence, no fair and transparent enquiry would be held, it was stated.
The scam pertains to an allegation by Ramesh that hefty sum was paid to Mani for his help in reopening some closed liquor bars in the state. Based on this, government initially ordered a "quick verification' and later lodged an FIR for a detailed probe.