In a setback to the LDF government, Kerala High Court on Tuesday dismissed petitions filed by CEO of Life Mission Project of Kerala government and Santhosh Eappen, MD of the contractor company,Unitac, challenging CBI investigation into the case related to alleged Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) violations over funds received from a foreign sponsor for implementation of the Life Mission housing project at Wadakkancherry in Thrissur district.
The single bench of Justice P Somarajan, however, said the criminal liability of the non-political actors in the case cannot be extended to the political executive of the state, just because the crime was done while executing government’s policy decision.
“In the instant case, all these mischiefs were done during the implementation of the LIFE Mission by permanent members of nonpolitical executive attached to the IAS along with Swapna Suresh, Sandeep Nair and other accused. The mere fact that policy decision was taken by the CM and the ministers or the legislature may not be itself a sufficient ground to extend criminal liability for the wrong done by non-political actors and their allies to the political executive. Therefore, criminal liability cannot be extended to political executive merely because they took a policy decision,” the court observed.
Describing the scheme as an intellectual fraud played in furtherance of MoU so as to avoid CAG audit and to get kickbacks and gratifications, the court expressed that the nature of the Memorandum of Understanding entered into between the UAE Consulate and Kerala was substantially a concluded contract.
The court vacated the stay for the probe by CBI while dismissing the petition filed by the CEO of LIFE Mission seeking to quash the FIR against them.
A bench of Justice V G Arun, last October, had passed the stay order in the petition filed by U V Jose, CEO of the LIFE Mission Project, seeking to quash the FIR registered by the CBI alleging violations of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act over the receipt of foreign contributions from the United Arab Emirates( UAE) for the construction of housing units for flood victims at a government plot at Wadakkancherry in Thrissur district.
The case is related to the Life Mission, the Kerala government’s flagship housing project for the homeless, involves a corruption allegation into the award of the contract to construct 144 apartments in Wadakkancherry to Unitac, a construction company, at the behest of M Sivasankar, the then principal secretary of the chief minister in 2019. For this purpose, Dubaibased Red Crescent signed an MoU with the Life Mission to provide financial aid (AED 10 million or Rs 20 crore) to build the dwellings, the contract for which was given to Unitac.
Anil Akkara, MLA filed a complaint stating that the LIFE Mission Project violated Foreign Currency Regulation Act (FCRA) norms. His specific complaint was against the project at his constituency at Wadakkanchery. Pursuant to the complaint, CBI filed an FIR naming Unitac’sSanthoshEappen, Sane Ventures (another contractor), and “unnamed officials of the LIFE Mission project”. Shortly after the CBI’s FIR, the LIFE Mission CEO approached Kerala High Court seeking to quash CBI probe. Then Eappen also filed a writ petition praying that the investigation against him and his company be quashed.