CBI can probe LIFE Mission CEO: HC

Court dismisses petitions filed by U.V. Jose, Santhosh Eappen

Holding that there is a prima facie case to be investigated by the CBI, the Kerala High Court on Tuesday dismissed petitions filed by U.V. Jose, CEO, LIFE Mission, and Santhosh Eappen, MD, Unitac, a construction company, seeking to quash the FIR registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the alleged irregularities in the implementation of the LIFE Mission project at Wadakkachery in Thrissur district.

Justice P. Somarajan observed that a clear criminal conspiracy to divert foreign contribution to the hands of a third person — Unitac Builders and Developers and Sane Ventures — “is prima facie evident from the mere fact that no agreement was entered into between the UAE Red Crescent and the State government in furtherance of a memorandum of understanding (MoU)” signed between LIFE Mission (State government) and UAE Red Crescent.

The agreements entered into by these two companies with the Consular General UAE, without the ‘juncture’ of either the UAE Red Crescent, the fund provider, or the LIFE Mission was contrary to the spirit and understanding of the MoU.

The court said the CEO of LIFE Mission had perpetrated the delinquency by accepting intervention of third persons and permitting them to go ahead with building constructions and even offered all sort of help in obtaining the necessary plan and permit from the local authority for the construction.

The typical nature of the facts involved in the case would reveal ‘a high profile intellectual fraud played in furtherance of the MoU so as to avoid audit by CAG and to get kickbacks and gratifications.’

The IAS officers should ‘check and balance’ while formulating and implementing policy decisions in accordance with the law in force. It was up to the civil servants, the non-political executive, to implement the policy by due process of law.

No liability on CM

Their failure to address the issue or mischief, if any, done by them in the matter of its implementation could not by itself, be a ground to extend any criminal liability against the political executive (the Chief Minister, Ministers and the legislature), unless the same was brought to their notice with its legal consequences in writing, the court said.

Even proactive steps taken by the political executive in the implementation of the project/policy decisions “may not, by itself, make them responsible for any criminal liability, especially in a case of this nature, wherein a well-designed and intelligently hidden agenda was scrupulously employed by the civil servants in connivance with the middleman, the Consulate General of UAE, Thiruvananthapuram, unless it was known or made known to them with its legal consequences specified in writing by the civil servants,” the court observed.

Dismissing a contention that the government had not given consent or permission for a CBI probe into the case, the court pointed out that a notification issued by the State government on June 8, 2017, had accorded sanction to the CBI to register and investigate crimes. Besides, the Chief Minister in July 8, 2020, had requested the Centre to employ Central agencies for effective investigation into the alleged irregularities in the LIFE Mission implementation.

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