In the latest development in bar bribery case that raised a storm in Kerala politics two years back, the Vigilance Court in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday ordered probe against the former director of the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) and the officer who probed the case for allegedly trying to scuttle the investigation. The Vigilance also filed an affidavit against its former director. 

 

The court ordered a preliminary investigation into the allegations that former VACB director N Shanker Reddy and Vigilance SP R. Sukeshan tried to undermine the investigation into the bar bribery case involving former Finance Minister and Kerala Congress leader KM Mani. The court directed the VACB to complete the probe against the officers in 45 days. 

 

While hearing a petition, the Court summoned the case diary and examined it after the petitioner alleged that Reddy had intervened in the investigation to protect Mani. It also went through three letters purportedly written by Reddy directing Sukeshan to file a report exonerating Mani.  

 

Last month, Sukeshan had informed the Special Vigilance Court in Kerala capital that Reddy manipulated the case diary and that he dismissed the probe report that recommended charging Mani in the case.  The court had ordered further probe in the case following the SP’s request. 

 

  Reddy was the VACB Director during the regime of the UDF government in which Mani was the Finance Minister. The veteran Kerala Congress leader had to resign in November 2015 from UDF ministry following adverse comments by the High Court in connection with the case.

 

In January this year, in a report submitted to the Court, the VACB had sought its permission to close the case against Mani as it failed to find evidence against him. 


 
The Vigilance had filed a FIR against Mani after a quick verification into the allegations made by Kerala State Bar Hotel Owners Association working President Biju Ramesh in October 2014. Mani demanded Rs. 5 crore for the renewal of licenses to more than 400 bar hotels, Ramesh had alleged.  


 
The probe into the bar bribery allegations saw many flip flops since  2014. In October 2015, the court had rejected a Vigilance first report exonerating Mani. In a second report, the Vigilance sought the closure of the case pointing out that the UDF ministry had not taken any decision in favour of the bar owners in the state and hence the allegations of bribe did not hold water.