KOCHI: Even though the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) questioned 19 witnesses, including Opposition Leader V S Achuthanandan, no definite conclusion related to the transaction of money could be traced in the bar bribery case levelled against Finance Minister K M Mani, the state government submitted before the High Court on Wednesday.
The state filed the progress report of the investigation on the allegations of bribery alleged by liquor bar owners against Mani over reopening closed bars. It filed the statement on the petition by CPI MLA V S Sunil Kumar seeking a directive to the Director of the VACB to conclude the preliminary inquiry on bar bribery case within seven days.
The state also handed over the name of the witnesses already questioned and to be questioned, before the court.The witnesses questioned so far have only hearsay knowledge regarding the allegations of demand and acceptance of bribe as alleged.
“In order to ascertain the allegations, it is highly essential to question witnesses who are reported to have direct involvement in the matter. The failure on the part of witnesses, who are reported to have knowledge about the transactions, to turn up for examinations is delaying the completion of the inquiry,” the state submitted. A Division Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice A M Shaffique, orally asked the state to complete the preliminary probe expeditiously and adjourned the hearing of the case to Thursday.
Even though notices were repeatedly issued to Kerala Bar Hotels Association state president D Rakumar, general secretary M D Dhanesh, Krishnadas Polakulathu and 11 others, they failed to appear before the agency.
Similarly, they informed that a five-member committee have been constituted to give evidence relating to the allegations. The committee members have also not turned up to give any statement.
The petitioner pointed out that Kerala State Bar and Restaurant Owners’ Association working president had revealed that he had paid bribe to the Minister for facilitating the renewal of licence to bar hotels.