The Kerala government is likely to opt for a legal challenge to a CBI inquiry into the Life Mission project, after a go-ahead at the weekly state Cabinet meeting which discussed the issue here on Wednesday, sources said.
The state government has taken advice on the matter from legal brains, who pointed out that Kerala could question the CBI probe since the Pinarayi Vijayan government had not given permission for the same.
The development comes a day after Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala warned of legal and political steps against any Vijayan government move to bring an ordinance to keep the CBI out of the probe.
Experts, however, said that there was very little scope for any favourable court order for the state government since the CBI could take suo motu notice in the matter related to alleged violation of the Foreign Currency Regulation Act. It did not require the state’s concurrence, they added.
The Life Mission project, a pet project of Vijayan ever since he assumed the CM’s office in 2016, was floated to build houses for the homeless and landless, using funds raised through sponsorships. The state’s role was limited to only providing the land.
The project, however, ran into trouble when Anil Akkara, a Congress legislator, first raised questions about alleged wrongdoings in a building project in his Wadakkanchery constituency in Thrissur, for which funds came from UAE-based charity Red Crescent.
Though Vijayan had been maintaining that the state, apart from handing over land, had no role in the project, things began to change after the Kerala gold smuggling case surfaced.
This particular project was routed through the UAE Consulate, where smuggling case main accused Swapna Suresh and PS Sarith earlier worked. It turned murkier when news surfaced that a son of Industries Minister EP Jayarajan was also close to Swapna.
Vijayan’s media adviser John Brittas had claimed that Rs 4.25 crore in commission was paid in the project, a stand endorsed by two state Ministers also.
The CBI has already questioned Santhosh Eapen, whose company was given the contract to build the houses. It has now asked senior IAS officer and Life Mission CEO UV Jose to appear before it on October 5 with all relevant documents.
Vijayan is Life Mission Chairman while his trusted aide and Local Self-Government Minister AC Moideen is the Vice-Chairman. Incidentally, the project MoU was inked in Vijayan’s office.