Bar bribery: K Babu quits

Excise Minister K Babu on Saturday said he is resigning from the cabinet. The announcement was made while addressing the media persons at Ernakulam Press Club on Saturday afternoon.

Kochi: Excise Minister K Babu on Saturday said he is resigning from the cabinet. The announcement was made while addressing the media persons at Ernakulam Press Club on Saturday afternoon.

The decision comes in the wake of the Thrissur Vigilance Court ordering the agency to register a case against him in connection with the bar bribery case.

Noting that offering bribe and receiving the same are punishable offences, the court also ordered that bar owner Biju Ramesh also be booked.

Following the court order, Babu held discussions with Chief Minister and Home Minister and conveyed the party leadership of his decision to step down as minister.

"I don't want to cling to the post citing technicality of the case," Babu said.

"The conspiracy to expell me from the cabinet took place at MLA V Sivankutty's house on December 7. CPM leader Kodiyeri Balkrishnan and bar owners too attended the meeting," he alleged.

Reacting to the court order, KPCC president V M Sudheeran said the order is of a serious nature. The IUML too echoed his views.
Babu is the second minister to quit from the cabinet over the bar bribery scam. K M Mani, who was the finance minister, had stepped down on November 10 last year following the adverse remarks made by the Kerala High Court.

While disposing of a plea from the Kerala Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau to quash the Vigilance court order on November 9, Justice B Kemal Pasha had said: “Caesar’s wife should be above suspicion. People will have anxiety about any further probe if the minister continues… I leave it to the conscience of the accused person whether to continue as a minister.” Mani resigned the very next day.

In total, this is the third resignation of a minister from the Chandy ministry that came to power in May 2011, the first being Ganesh Kumar in April 2013, who was forced to resign following complaints of domestic violence by his estranged wife.

Bar bribery: Vigilance court orders inquiry against K Babu

Thrissur: The Vigilance Court here on Saturday ordered to register cases against Excise Minister K Babu and bar owner Biju Ramesh in connection with the bar bribery case.

“The report should be submitted within a month. The enquiry should be monitored by the court,” it directed.

The court issued the order while considering the Vigilance’s plea seeking additional time to complete the quick verification report.

Severely censuring the government and the Vigilance, the court said the agency has lost its credibility and commitment.

“Just because Lokayukta is functioning, are you making attempt to wind up the operations of the agency, it asked.

“The government has to prove whether the allegations are wrong or right. Offering bribe and receiving the same are punishable offences. Hence a case should be registered against Biju Ramesh,” it said.

“If the Vigilance was committed, the report would have been submitted within 10 days. The Vigilance has not yet made any move to conduct a preliminary enquiry or to prepare the report. Don’t think the court is senseless,” it added.

The Vigilance has on Saturday told the court that it need one more month since the investigation is pending. The agency cited that the particulars of preliminary investigation are with the Lokayukta.

The Vigilance was directed to submit the report by Januray 23. The court had ordered the quick verification after dismissing the government pleader’s claim that the allegation was probed by Vigilance once.

The petition was lodged on the basis of the allegation levelled by Biju Ramesh during debates in television channels that he had handed over Rs 50 lakh to K Babu for renewing the bar licence.

K Babu, a confidant of Oommen Chandy

After coming to know that he has been allotted the excise portfolio in the Oommen Chandy ministry, K Babu had asked the Chief Minister to change his portfolio. But Oommen Chandy, who named Aryadan Mohammad, Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishan, KC Joseph and K Babu from the (A) group as ministers, forced his close confidant to take up the key portfolio of excise.

However, the same ministry paved the way for his downfall after four years. In Kerala history, Liquor has always been a reason for the downfall of ministers. While many ministers had to resign in the name of liquor tragedies, it was allegation of bribery which trapped Babu. Thus , the bar bribery missile sent by bar owner Biju Ramesh has resulted in the resignation of Babu. Chief Minister Oomen chandy could not save his confidant as the vigilance court severely censured the government and the vigilance while ordering to register cases against Babu and bar owner Biju Ramesh in connection with the bar bribery case.

“The report should be submitted within a month. The enquiry should be monitored by the court,” it directed.

When allegations of bribery were raised against KM Mani, Babu had said that he would not continue as Excise minister if an FIR was filed in his name or an adverse comment was made by the court. Babu repeated that statement while announcing his resignation. Babu, who served as an MLA for 24 years, had to submit his resignation three months before the ministry's term gets over.

Babu contemplated resignation at Metro trial run venue

It was at the venue of the trial run of the Kochi metro, that K Babu came to know about the Thrissur vigilance court’s order to register case against him.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and other ministers were present at the venue when Babu got the information by phone. Babu was sitting left of Minister Aryadan Mohammad and Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was seated on the right of Aryadan. Aryadan Mohammed stood up to speak at this juncture. Babu shifted his seat to Aryadan’s seat to share the information with the Chief Minister. In the five minute discussion, Babu informed the Chief Minister his willingness to resign. Hibi Eden who got to know the court order, reached the venue and informed the details to CM and K Babu. As the programmes of Jana Raksha Yatra were stopped temporarily due to the death of AC Jose, KPCC President VM Sudheeran was present at the Ernakulam guest house. After the metro trial run, media persons asked Babu for his reaction. Babu said that he would see the media today itself. Soon everybody started discussing the probability of Babu’s resignation.

Babu then reached the Ernakulam guest house and entered into hectic discussions. Around 2.45 pm Babu went to the Chief Ministers room in second floor. He informed the CM about his decision and also handed over his resignation letter. By 3.15 pm, Babu started his journey to the Ernakulam Press club. As expected, Babu announced his resignation at the news conference. Babu stepped down from the post just five hours after the court’s statement.

Main events in bar bribery case

Following are the main events in Bar bribery case that led to the resignation of two ministers in Oommen Chandy cabinet - K M Mani and K Babu.

October 31, 2014: Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association working president Biju Ramesh comes out with allegation that Mani had demanded a bribe of Rs 5 crore and accepted Rs 1 crore for the renewal of bar licences in April 2014.

December 10: State Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau registers an FIR against Mani and begins probe on a complaint
filed by CPI(M) veteran and state Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan based on the allegations of Ramesh.

March 13, 2015: State Assembly witnesses unprecedented chaos when CPI(M)-led LDF Opposition members tries to prevent
Mani from presenting the state budget for 2015-16.

March 30: Ramesh gives statement before the court against Mani in the case.

April 22: CPI(M) led LDF opposition holds march to state secretariat as part of its agitation demanding resignation of

May 18: Bar bribery case witness and Ramesh's driver, Ambili, undergoes polygraph test.

May 24: Test results indicate that Ambili's statement that he saw Mani accepting bribe is true.

June 3: Investigating Office Vigilance Superintendent R Sukesh submits 'quick verification report' to Vigilance Director Vinson M Paul stating that there was evidence to take case against Mani. The Director disagrees with the report.

July 7: Investigating Officer submits a final report before special court seeking closure of the case.

July 28: Vigilance submits all materials related to the case in court.

October 6: Special Vigilance Court reserves final verdict after completion of hearing.

October 29: Vigilance Court quashes final report of Vigilance to close the case and orders further probe into it.

November 6: Kerala High Court refuses interim stay on Special Vigilance Court order for further probe.

November 9: High Court upholds vigilance court order for further probe.

November 10: K M Mani stepped down as Finance Minister. Expressing solidarity with KM Mani, Chief Whip Thomas Unniyadan also submits resignation.

December 29: Supreme Court approves the liquor policy of Kerala government. SC rejects the bar owner’s petition. Only Five star bars will be allowed in the state.

January 13, 2016: Vigilance gives clean chit to KM Mani.

January 18: High Court says that vigilance is not vigilant and it is better to assign some antoher agency for the job.

January 23: K Babu steps down as Excise minister in the wake of the Thrissur Vigilance Court ordering the agency to register a case against him in connection with the bar bribery case.

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