The CBI has submitted an affidavit in the Kerala High Court against the state government’s decision to deny it sanction to prosecute senior Congress leader R Chandrasekharan and a bureaucrat in connection with a multi-crore corruption case at the Kerala State Cashew Development Corporation (KSCDC).
Chandrasekharan is also the state president of the Congress’s trade union arm, INTUC.
The case gained attention as the CPI (M) government is shielding a Congress leader at a time when the ruling party is scouting for as many as cases to be raked up against the opposition party’s leaders in the state.
It relates to corruption in the procurement of raw cashew nuts from India and abroad, and sale of cashew kernels by KSCDC between 2006 and 2014, when Chandrasekharan had been its chairman and K A Ratheesh its managing director. Ratheesh is now secretary of the Kerala Khadi Board.
The CBI took over the probe in 2015 following a direction from a division bench of the High Court, which acted upon a PIL moved by Cashew Industries Staff Association ex-secretary Kadakampally Manoj.
The petitioner had alleged that from 2006 to 2014, corruption to the tune of Rs 500 crore had taken place at KSCDC Ltd. The KSCDC had incurred a loss of Rs 1,100 crore during the said period despite the cashew sector doing well in those years.
In April, the CBI had sought sanction to prosecute Chandrasekharan and Ratheesh. In October, the government denied the sanction. Apart from the two, the CBI had also arraigned two others as accused, but the state’s prosecution sanction was required only for Chandrasekharan and Ratheesh, both public servants, under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Subsequent to the government denial of the prosecution sanction, the petitioner approached the high court.
On Thursday, the CBI told the High Court that the government order denying prosecution sanction should be set aside as the order was issued to avoid filing of the final report against the accused persons. CBI said the government did not properly appreciate the evidences against the accused and misinterpreted findings of the investigating agency.
The majority of the allegations in the report submitted by the CBI relates to the tenders illegally issued in favour of fourth accused Jaimon Joseph for the period 2006-2014. He was given undue advantage and supply orders for several crores. CBI had found that guidelines of the Central Vigilance Commission and the Store Purchase Manual were not followed in import of raw kernels. Chandrasekharan and Ratheesh, according to CBI, abused their official positions to cause undue financial advantage for the fourth accused trader.
In its report denying prosecution sanction, the government said there is no evidence to confirm that the CVC Guidelines and Store Purchase Manual are applicable to KSCDC. “For prosecuting a public servant, who acted under authority, mere allegations without support of evidence are insufficient,” the government said. In these circumstances, the sanction sought for to prosecute the two persons was declined.
The government was of the stand that all controversial contracts had been sanctioned by the director board of the KSCDC. The alleged action of the accused are upon the decisions of the director board based on a government order of 2007 and it was beyond the scope of CBI to comment upon that government order.