Second Kerala minister quits in bar bribery case

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Second Kerala minister quits in bar bribery case

Trivandrum - Court orders registration of case against excise minister K. Babu.

By T K Devasia

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Published: Sun 24 Jan 2016, 8:22 PM

Kerala Excise Minister K. Babu on Saturday resigned from the Oommen Chandy government following a court direction to Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VABC) to register a case against him in the bar bribery case.
Babu told reporters at Ernakulam Press Club that he had submitted his resignation letter to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.
Babu is the second minister to resign in the case that was fuelled by bar owners' allegation regarding bribe they gave to various ministers for reopening the bars closed by the government under its phased prohibition policy.
Earlier, K M Mani was forced to quit as finance minister after the high court questioned his continuation in the ministry following registration of a case against him for allegedly receiving a bribe of Rs.2.5 million from the bar owners for facilitating the reopening of the closed bars. In Babu's case, the Vigilance Court at Trichur had last month ordered a quick verification into the allegation levelled by Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association working president Biju Ramesh that the bar owners had given a bribe of Rs100 million to the minister for not raising the license fee of liquor bars for the year 2013-14 on a public interest petition filed by Trichur Malayalavedi chairman George Vattukulam.
The court on Saturday directed the VACB to register a first information report (FIR) against Babu and conduct the probe when the latter sought one month's time to file a report of the quick verification. The judge has asked the VACB to submit a progress report on the probe by February 22.
Coming down heavily on the VACB for its ineffective handling of the probe, vigilance enquiry commissioner and special judge S S Vasan ordered that the new probe would be a court-monitored enquiry as per the section 156 (3) of the CrPC and as per the order pronounced by the Supreme Court in 2008. Babu, who was attending the launch of the trial run of Kochi metro train when the news about the verdict came, consulted the chief minister, who was on the dais, and informed his decision to quit. He submitted the letter of resignation after detailed discussion with the chief minister and other senior leaders at the government guest house few hours later.
Babu said that he had resigned as he had made it clear earlier that he will not cling on to power on technical grounds whenever there is a serious remark against him. He said that he had resigned without even seeing the court verdict.
He said that the allegation against him was part of a conspiracy hatched by opposition Communist Party of India (Marxist) at the residence of party legislator M Sivankutty in the state capital on December 15, 2014 to pull down the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government.
Senior CPM leaders including current state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had at the meeting attended by Biju Ramesh and other office bearers of the bar owners association promised to reopen the bars if they came to power after the bar owners brought down the government with their allegations.

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