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Excise Minister K. Babu quits over bar bribery allegations

Excise Minister K. Babu quits over bar bribery allegations

Kochi: Excise Minister K Babu resigned Saturday, hours after a court ordered lodging of an FIR against him in the bar bribery scam, becoming the second minister to quit on the issue in two months.

"I expressed my willingness to the Chief Minister (Oomen Chandy) to quit the moment I came to know about the court's decision...I met the Chief Minister and handed over the resignation letter to him," Babu told a crowded press conference in Kochi.

It comes over two months after the resignation of Kerala Congress (M) supremo K M Mani as the Finance Minister following Kerala High Court making some stinging observations against him over the scam.

The resignations have rattled the Congress-led UDF Government in Kerala just months ahead of the assembly elections.

Working President of Kerala Bar Owners Association Biju Ramesh had alleged that Babu was given Rs 10 crore as bribe for renewal of licences of liquor bars, an allegation rubbished by the minister.

He had also made similar charges against Mani based on which a Vigilance case had been registered against him.

Reacting to the development, Chandy said he would take a decision after receiving the copy of the court order and after consulting his colleagues.

"I have received the letter. We have not got the copy of the court order. After getting the copy, I will consult my colleagues and take a decision," the Chief Minister told reporters in Kottayam.

Babu, a five-time Congress MLA from Tripunithura assembly segment in Ernakulam, became a minister for the first time in the UDF government that came to power in May 2011. Besides, the excise and ports, he also held fisheries portfolio.

Unhappy over the Vigilance department not filing the Quick Verification report against Babu, the Enquiry Commissioner and Special Judge Vigilance in Thrissur S S Vassan today directed the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau to register a case and file the first progress report by February 22.

The order was passed on the petition by Thrissur-based Malayalavedi George Vattukulam who sought a vigilance probe against Babu based on Biju Ramesh's statement to the media.

The Judge said "no result worth the name has come out after a lapse of one-and-half months. I am of the view that enquiry is not going to get any result".

Following the court decision, Babu, a close confidante of Chandy, went into a huddle with the Chief Minister and Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, who were also in Kochi for the function, and conveyed to the party leadership his decision to step down.

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