K Babu, Ramesh Chennithala | Photo: Mathrubhumi
New Delhi: The petition seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the Kerala bar bribery case of 2014 was adjourned to the third week of July by the Supreme Court. Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagaratna heard the petition.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan appeared in the Supreme Court on behalf of petitioner PL Jacob, and he pointed out that the state government, which is the opposite party in the case, has not filed its affidavit yet. Senior advocate Jaideep Gupta and standing counsel CK Sasi appeared for the government. However, Justice Joseph clarified that he was not taking any position on the petition and that the lawyers should not make any arguments that day.
Additional solicitor general Vikramjit Banerjee appeared in the court on behalf of the CBI. He was instructed to convey the union government's position that the CBI would take up the investigation if the court asked. However, as the hearing was adjourned, he could not state his position.
The bar bribery case will now be considered by a new bench in July, as Justice Joseph retires in June. The earlier notice in this case was sent by a bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar.
According to the case, UDF ministers of the Ommen Chandy ministry received payments from the Kerala Bar Owners Association. These payments were for the relicensing of around 300 bars shut down because they were unhygienic. The Vigilance and Anti-corruption Bureau registered a case in 2014 against KM Mani. He quit the post in 2015. Minister K Babu was charged in 2016. He too had to quit ahead of the Assembly election that year.
The VACB, however, argued in the court that evidence provided by Biju Ramesh who made the allegations could not be relied upon. The VACB had filed three reports, two during the LDF regime, all absolving Mani of the crime. The probe also gave a clean chit to Babu.
In 2020, the government also implicated Ramesh Chennithala in the case based on the statement of Biju Ramesh.
Kerala Congress (Mani) joined LDF in 2020, after Mani's death. Biju Ramesh had later come out against chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan for allegedly wrecking the probe. He also said Jose K Mani offered Rs 10 cr to hush up.