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HC dismisses bail plea of T O Sooraj in flyover case


Kochi: Observing that a "wider and deeper conspiracy" is involved in the poor quality construction of a flyover here, the Kerala High Court on Wednesday dismissed bail pleas of retired bureaucrat T O Sooraj and two others who were arrested in August on graft charges related to the issue.

The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) is probing alleged corruption in the flyover's construction.

This situation could not have normally happened, but for the serious criminal lapses from the part of all persons involved, Justice Sunil Thomas observed while dismissing the bail pleas.

The Court, however, granted bail to Benny Paul, who is the third accused in the case.

He was joint general manager of KITCO, which approved the "defective" tender submitted by first accused Sumit Goyal.

Goyal is the managing director of the contracting firm, RDS Project Ltd, which constructed the now defunct Palarivattom flyover.

Former additional general manager of Roads and Bridges Development Corporation-Kerala (RBDCK) M T Thankachan is the second accused.

Sooraj, then PWD secretary, is the fourth accused in the case being investigated by the VACB.

In its order, the Court said scientific reports indicate that there are substantial materials to doubt the strength of pier caps, girder and other superstructures of the flyover.

"Prima facie, there are materials suggesting that there has been a dangerous compromise on the quality of work done which could be for pecuniary gain. All the persons responsible are yet to be identifed," the court said.

"It appears that wider and deeper conspiracy is involved and what is revealed till now, may be only the tip of the iceberg," it said further.

The Court said the investigation has to progress with determination and taken to its logical conclusion.

During the course of arguments earlier, the VACB, while opposing the bail plea of Sooraj, said the retired bureaucrat had amassed a disproportionate amount of wealth during his tenure as the state PWD secretary.

Opposing the plea, the anti-corruption watchdog said he had purchased 6.68 acres of land in Edappally South village in his son's name within three months after he, as PWD secretary, released the mobilisation advance of Rs 8.25 crore to the contracting company on July 22, 2014 for building the flyover.

"Even though the deed value of this property is shown as Rs 1.04 crore, the probe has revealed that he had purchased the property for Rs 3.30 crore," R Asok Kumar, Deputy Superintendent of Police, VACB, said in an additional statement filed before the high court.

In his bail plea, Sooraj had claimed it was the then public works minister Kunju who had accorded sanction for releasing an interest-free mobilisation advance of Rs 8.25 crore to the contracting company for building the flyover.

The VACB had rejected Sooraj's allegations.

Dismissing the bail plea, the court said "very serious allegations of favouring the accused are raised against Sooraj. Even though he claimed that he had charged interest over the mobilisation advance ordered, that was much below the rate at which the banking institutions advance loan."     The flyover was closed for traffic from May 1 after it started developing cracks within three years of its construction.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had ordered a vigilance probe into the construction of the 750-metre-long flyover, which was inaugurated in October 2016.

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