Kochi: Kerala High Court Saturday issued notice to former state Finance Minister K M Mani and others including Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau Director on whether the probe in bar bribery case should be handed over to CBI or any other agency even as it expressed displeasure over Chief Minister Oommen Chandy's remarks defending Mani.
"Chief Minister and others said no offence has been committed by the accused. If that is the view, can a subordinate authority investigate the case honestly," Justice B Sudheendra Kumar said in oral observations after admitting a revision petition filed by Sunny Mathew from Thodupuzha contesting the order of Vigilance Court, Thiruvananthapuram, for further probe into the case.
The High Court called for all records of the case from the Vigilance Court, Thiruvananthapuram.
"In my view, this should be investigated by some other agency," Justice Kumar said.
"Can you expect justice if the investigation is conducted by this agency (Vigilance Bureau)," he said.
The court, which also issued notice to the state government and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly V S Achuthanandan in this regard, will decide the matter on December 2.
During the consideration of the case, the High Court cautioned that if the authorities concerned make any comments on the merits of the case, they will be held responsible.
It directed the investigation officials and superior authorities to show restraint while expressing anything on the merit of the case.
The court said if comments are already made, they can submit affidavit explaining the circumstances.
It orally observed that the case should be investigated by some other agencies as it has duty to see that public repose confidence on the investigation.
The court also posed a question on whether justice can be meted out if investigation is conducted by the Vigilance Department which is controlled by the state government.
On November 10, Mani, against whom an FIR had been registered in the bar bribery case, had resigned, a day after the High Court upheld a further probe into the case. He said his party would continue to support Chandy and ruling United Democratic Front.
The case pertains to charges levelled by working president of Kerala State Bar Hotel Owners Association, Biju Ramesh, who had alleged in October 2014 that Mani had demanded Rs five crore as bribe from the Association and accepted Rs one crore for renewal of licenses of over 400 Indian made foreign liquor bars.