Pinarayi Vijayan in Assembly | Videograb: SabhaTV/YouTube
Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala assembly proceedings were disrupted briefly on Tuesday after an ED remand report, containing certain allegations against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in the Life Mission case was read out in the House by the opposition UDF.
The remand report was read out by Congress MLA Mathew Kuzhalnadan during discussion of the adjournment notice moved by him regarding the Life Mission case in which the Chief Minister's former principal secretary, M Sivasankar, was facing a probe by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The ED is investigating the alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulations) Act in the Life Mission, a flagship housing project of the Left government.
As permission to adjourn the House was not granted by the Speaker based on the explanation given by Kerala Minister of Local Self Governments M B Rajesh, the UDF-opposition staged a walkout.
Rajesh opposed the adjournment motion on the ground that the allegations of corruption in connection with Life Mission had been raised in the House several times.
The minister said that under the Life Mission scheme over three lakh houses have been built for the homeless and landless in the state, but despite that the opposition was always attacking the project.
He also contended that no official working in the Life Mission project had ever accepted a bribe, no illegality was ever committed by them and the Congress reliance on ED indicates the grand old party's "political bankruptcy".
Rajesh also argued that under the House rules, matters being adjudicated in any court should not be discussed in the assembly and therefore, it was not right to read out the remand report and the contents of the same should not be included in the records of the legislature.
Kuzhalnadan, on the other hand, contended that according to the report, Sivasankar told the central agency that there was a meeting between him, the Chief Minister, the UAE consul general and Swapna Suresh -- an accused in the gold smuggling through diplomatic bags case.
He further said that as per the report, Sivasankar has mentioned that he briefed Vijayan after Suresh was appointed to the post of Operations Manager in the Space Park project under the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Ltd.
Kuzhalnadan asked, in the House, whether the CM can deny these allegations in the report to which Vijayan responded by categorically denying that anything as read out by the legislator ever happened.
To this, the Congress MLA questioned why the Chief Minister was not moving the court against such a wrong remand report and Vijayan responded that he does not need legal advice from Kuzhalnadan regarding steps to take.
During the questions posed by the Congress MLA to the CM and after Vijayan's reply, several ruling front lawmakers left their seats and created an uproar in the House by trying to shout down Kuzhalnadan.
State Law Minister P Rajeeve initially said Kuzhalnadan should table in the House the contents of the document he was reading from and later contended that a remand report being considered by a court cannot be discussed in the assembly.
Kuzhalnadan, thereafter, said he was willing to table the remand report and sought permission of the Chair to do so.
However, the shouting match between the opposition and ruling front MLAs continued and Speaker A N Shamseer was forced to briefly adjourn the House.
As the House resumed after a few minutes, the Speaker said that according to the rules any issue being adjudicated in a court in India ought not to be discussed in the assembly and despite that the remand report was read out.
He also said that while in the past court matters may have been discussed in the House, the Chair was not going to permit it this time and added that it will be considered whether the remand report contents read out by the Congress MLA need to be expunged from the assembly records.
Vijayan, meanwhile, said that the statements made by Kuzhalnadan during discussion on the adjournment motion were baseless, false and defamatory and such remarks are prohibited under the House rules.
Defending the statements by Kuzhalnadan and in responding to the contention of the ruling front, Leader of Opposition in the state assembly V D Satheesan said that the issue was raised in the House as the Office of the CM was found to be allegedly involved in the case.
He said the Congress sought a CBI probe into the matter for the same reason -- inter and intra state ramifications, that Vijayan requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an investigation by all central agencies into the gold smuggling case.
Satheesan also said that the ED was investigating the case and had not yet filed a chargesheet and therefore, the matter was not at the adjudication stage.
Thus, there was nothing wrong with the remand report being read out in the assembly, he added before he, his party and their allies staged a walkout.
The CBI had in 2020 filed an FIR in a Kochi court under Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code and Section 35 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) on a complaint by the then Wadakkanchery Congress MLA Anil Akkara listing Santosh Eappen, Managing Director of Unitac Builder, Kochi as the first accused and Sane Ventures as the second accused.
The two companies had undertaken the construction based on the agreement entered with them by Red Crescent, an international humanitarian movement, which had agreed to provide Rs 20 crore towards the Life Mission project.
The Congress has been alleging that there was corruption involved in the selection of the contractor by Red Crescent.