If there is one government department that has come under attack from all sides, it is the Vigilance and Anti-corruption Bureau (VACB) in Kerala.
In 2005, if the Lavalin case was the reason to criticize VACB, now it is the bar bribery scam.
The Kerala High Court (HC) on Monday, while hearing a petition on the bar bribery case, said, "The vigilance is not vigilantâ. The observation was made by Justice Kemal Pasha while considering a petition by Biju Ramesh, the whistle-blower in the bar bribery scam seeking to quash the defamation case filed against him by Kerala Excise Minister K. Babu.
HC also said that if the VACB cannot investigate the case effectively, then the case should be transferred to some other organisation.
After the courtâs observation, the opposition has been vigorously attacking the vigilance department.
CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told the media that the courtâs observations against the VACB is a charge sheet against the department.
âIt has become an organization that dances according to the will of the chief minister. The department has to reconstituted,â Kodiyeri said.
Opposition leader VS Achuthanandan was stronger in his reaction and said that the department should be dissolved.
âVigilance protects the corrupt ministers. For the government, it is a tool to protect its ministers. The vigilance directorâs position, which was meant for DGP-ranked officers, is now occupied by an ADGP. That itself proves the governmentâs vested interests,â Achuthanandan said.
CPI(M) Politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan said that the condition of the VACB is worse than what the court said.
âThe Home Minister is answerable on this issue. The ineligible government provokes the VACB to do illegal things,â he said.
It was in 2013 that former Kerala DGP Sibi Mathews said that the Kerala VACB is a âcaged parrotâ in the hands of the government. He also added that for the last 50 years, this particular department has not worked efficiently.
In most of the corruption cases involving politicians, the VACB seems to be helpless and has been attacked verbally by the court and Opposition many times.
It was in June 2015 that Vigilance SP Sukesan, who was in charge of the bar scam enquiry, prepared a report pointing to evidence against former Finance Minister KM Mani. The report was modified the next day by department Director Vinson M Paul, who claimed it was just a fact correction.
But when the report reached the Thiruvananthapuram Vigilance court in October, it pointed out that the case against Mani should be dropped due to lack of evidence. The court also criticized the director of the VACB after which he went on leave.
In June 2015, when the Kerala High Court was considering a petition seeking court intervention into the bar bribery scam, HC judge Alexander Thomas proposed that it would be better to grant administrative autonomy to the VACB by freeing it from the state government for an impartial and efficient functioning. But the state government strongly opposed it through the state advocate general.
Later in November 2015, the High Court again came down on the VACB and upheld the Vigilance courtâs observations in the bar scam case. HC said that the VACB director has no right to make changes in the findings of the investigating officer.
HC had also criticized VACB for not conducting an enquiry into Minister K Babuâs alleged involvement in the bar bribery scam.