A government order from May 2019 notes that the SPC’s move to purchase the vehicles was approved, even though proper procedures were not followed.

Kerala govt order confirms police chief bought bullet-proof vehicles without approval
news Controversy Monday, February 17, 2020 - 16:14

After an audit report from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India found that the state police chief (SPC) purchased bullet-proof vehicles for the force without following proper tender procedures, a government order from last year appears to confirm the same. 

Asianet broadcast a copy of a May 2019 order from the Home Department on Monday, which had sanctioned the SPC’s move to purchase the vehicles. This government order retroactively acknowledged the purchase, while also admitting that prior government approval had not been given.

The CAG report found that State Police Chief Lokanath Behera had violated guidelines for purchasing bullet-proof vehicles for VIPs and VVIPs. This is according to the report on General and Social Sector till March 2018, which was tabled in the state Assembly last week.

The report has put the CPI(M)-led LDF government and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who also helms the Home Department, in a fix, after the Congress-led opposition demanded that the CM and Loknath Behera be held accountable. 

The Opposition and the Left government in Kerala have continued to feud over the report findings, while the government claims that part of the report was leaked before it had been tabled. 

The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Bharat Stage-IV Vehicles (BSIV) vehicles were purchased from Hindustan Motors Corporation Limited Kolkata. They were purchased for Rs 1,10,04,000.

"Rs 126 lakh had been allotted for buying two bullet-proof vehicles as per the Modernisation of Police Force (MoPF) Scheme of 2016-17. The State Police Chief, in a letter referred to in the order, has said that 30 percent of the amount (of the total Rs 1,10,04,000) had been given as advance to Hindustan Motors. The SPC had informed that they decided to buy the cars because of the peculiar features of the bullet-proof cars, including the amenities for safety, and that it was not acceptable to publish the open tender because of security reasons, because they are not available on Government e-marketplace (Gem) Portal as well as there are very few companies that manufacture such cars in India," the order says.

"The SPC had also requested to spend Rs 1,10,04,000 under the head of Modernisation of Police for spillover payments to buy the vehicles, by approving the move without having the prior permission of the government," the order further says.

"The government has examined the issue and sanction is being granted for buying the vehicles by approving the SPC's move, which was without the prior approval of the government and without following the tender procedures," the order concludes.

‘No rifles missing’

While the CAG report had stated that twenty five 5.56 mm INSAS rifles and 12,061 live cartridges were missing from SAP Battalion, Inspecting Special Armed Police (SAP) Battalion camp in Thiruvananthapuram, the state Crime Branch chief Tomin J Thachankary, said that no rifles have gone missing from SAP. With Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Tomin Thachankary, the Crime Branch chief, directly stating that no rifles are missing, it offers some relief to the government.

“Crime Branch probe team directly inspected and found that all the 660 rifles of SAP are intact. Among these 13 rifles have been taken by the IR battalion trainnies for training in Manipur,” he told the media after the inspection. 

Meanwhile he said that in the case of the missing 12,061 live cartridges, chargesheet will be filed in two months. Thachankary also said that stringent probe will be held in this matter. 

“At present its immediate custodians are held accountable. But higher officials will also be held accountable for this in the coming days. How much ever top the officials are, they will be brought in front of law and they will have to pay for it,” said Thachankary. He also said that the Crime Branch will take strict actions including arrest.

Claiming that the probe will be impartial, Thachankary said that investigation will be based on evidence alone. “There is no space for any speeches of anyone, the investigation officer will solely look at evidence. People have to believe in the Crime Branch. If after people find any discrepancies in our probe, then only there is a need to think about any other investigation agencies,” said Thachankary. Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala had demanded that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) should probe the issue. 

Meanwhile, Thachankary also said that it was only recently that the Crime Branch started to probe the case seriously, as the investigation officer was also heading probe of 40 other serious cases. 

Also Read: 25 rifles and 12000 live cartridges missing from Kerala police’s Armed Police Battalion