KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Friday quashed the case registered by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau and its further proceedings against former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, former Chief Secretary E K Bharat Bhushan and three others in the Pattoor land scam. The VACB had registered the case saying the sewerage pipeline was shifted in violation of Section 16 of the Kerala Water Supply and Sewerage Act, 1986. The court said though only KWA officer Somashekharan, the first accused, Bhushan, the third accused, and managing director of Artech Realtors Ltd T S Ashok, the fifth accused, filed a petition seeking to quash the FIR, it will be quashed for Chandy and others too as they were parties.
The court, however, said the judgment won’t be an impediment for the Lok Ayukta to proceed in the case before it or against any person who may be found to have committed any offence related to any matter other than shifting of the sewerage line. The judgment also won’t discourage the government from taking steps to ascertain the extent of the land the company is entitled to or from recovering the ‘puramboke’ which may be found in its illegal possession.
The court quashed the FIR saying it was built on the basis of a wrong understanding of the provision contained in said Section.The court said though the FIR does not disclose the illegality committed in issuing the government order, counsel for V S Achuthanandan had pointed out the ‘illegality’ that the Chief Secretary lacked the authority to constitute a committee for inspecting the site and reporting on the issues. The court observed Bhushan recommended the constitution of the committee. “The court did not find anything wrong in Bhushan making the recommendation. It was the government which constituted the committee, not him,” the court said.
The statement in the FIR of there being an illegality in issuing the government order for constituting the committee was only an imagination of the police officer concerned and betrayed his ignorance in the relevant field. “Neither the Additional State Public Prosecutor, nor the counsel for the former Opposition leader Achuthanandan had a case that the committee’s report was manipulated. There was no allegation that during the panel’s inspection, officers any departments concerned were absent. When the committee’s report was received, then Chief Secretary sent a file with remarks to the Chief Minister. The FIR referred to the remarks as ‘evasive noting’, the meaning of which one fails to understand,” the court said,“As a responsible officer, it was Bhushan’s duty to express his opinion before the file was submitted to the Chief Minister,” the court observed.
There was no basis for the allegation Bhushan joined Chandy in taking the decision to shift the sewerage line. Bhushan only made his remarks on the report as was his duty and right,” the court said.Even if the allegation in the FIR — the property in dispute belongs to the KWA — was accepted as true, the actions of the accused won’t attract the provisions of the cited Act as shifting of sewerage line did not give any pecuniary advantage to the company, it said.“The case was registered on assumed facts and a false statement, borrowed from the report of the additional director of VACB. The facts of the case indicate malafide intention and ulterior motive on the part of the police officer concerned, which is discernible to a person who reads between the lines,” the court said.