Alleging a move to sabotage the trial in the Malabar Cements Limited corruption cases, in which controversial businessman VM Radhakrishnan and other high profile persons are arraigned as accused, the petitioner in the case had written to the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan that the Prosecutor has been given instructions to move withdrawal writs so as to favour the accused.
Joy Kaitharath, the petitioner and an RTI activist, who wrote to the CM on January 31 has revealed the details of the petition now. He says that if the withdrawal writs are allowed, then similar writs from the other accused in the case will also be allowed.
The petition says, â€śThe Prosecutor entrusted by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB), O Sasi, is in a dilemma after getting instructions to present withdrawal writs as he was forced to present contradictory arguments at the Court. If the withdrawal writs are allowed, withdrawal writs presented by the other accused in the case will also be allowed. In this way, three of the cases will be withdrawn from the court. The Malabar Cements case in which corruption to the tune of crores of rupees has occurred will thus be totally obliterated.â€ť
Joy Kaitharath told this reporter that there are moves ongoing to sabotage the case, thereby prolonging the trial. He alleged that the state government is not interested in completing the trial and political pressure is being exerted, which is why trial for none of the 12 cases has been held so far.
Meanwhile, sources close to O Sasi, the Prosecutor in these cases, at the Enquiry Commissioner and Special Judges Court, Thrissur, confirmed to this reporter that he is facing pressure from certain quarters.
Joyâ€™s petition also mentions the death of V Saseendran, a prime witness in a number of corruption cases at Malabar Cements. Saseendran, 46, and his two children, Vivek and Vyas, aged 10 and 8 respectively, were found dead at their house in Kanjikode near Palakkad on January 24, 2011. After investigation, the CBI charged VM Radhakrishnan with abetment to suicide.
â€śThe corruption cases at Malabar Cements Limited is what caused the death of V Saseendran, former Company Secretary, and his two children,â€ť reads the petition.
Dr Sanal Kumar, Saseendranâ€™s brother, had filed a writ in the High Court in 2016 demanding reinvestigation in the case and dismissing the CBI investigation report. The HC asked the CBI the report on the writ to which the CBI asked for more time. Following Saseendranâ€™s death, another witness in the case, Satheendra Kumar, also died in mysterious circumstances after being mowed down by a private bus at Ukkadam bus stand in Coimbatore. The driver of the bus was later found dead when the police intensified their investigation into Satheendra Kumarâ€™s death. Teena, Saseendranâ€™s wife, also died under mysterious circumstances in 2018.
There are currently 12 corruption cases registered at the Enquiry Commissioner and Special Judges, Thrissur, in connection with Malabar Cements. Joy also pointed out in the petition that the state government through a special order on February 22, 2012 had absolved the accused in the case â€“ former Chief Secretary and Chairman of Malabar Cements John Mathai, T Padmanabhan Nair and N Krishnakumar â€“ from three of the cases. The order was issued by the then UDF government.
The total number of corruption cases in connection with Malabar Cements is as follows. It was in the first three cases that the state government issued a special order thereby absolving John Mathai, T Padmanabhan Nair and N Krishnakumar from the list of the accused.
1. 2008: Palakkad Vigilance registered a case of corruption in the import of limestone from Tamil Nadu through a lease agreement. The chargesheet in the case was presented and the trial started in 2010. There are a total 11 accused in the case. However, John Mathai, Padmanabhan Nair, and Krishna Kumar were absolved from the accused list. The trial in the case has not reached anywhere so far. The loss is estimated to be Rs 25,61,394.
2. July 2008: The case pertains to corruption with regard to the purchase of fly ash from ARK Woods and Metals with inflated bills, causing a loss of Rs 2,78,49,381. VM Radhakrishnan is also an accused in this case.
3. August 2008: Corruption in the import of fly ash from Thoothukudi through SRV Transports during 2004-2008. The chargesheet was presented in December 2011. However, the trial has not happened. VM Radhakrishnan is also a co-accused in this case.
4. January 2009: Corruption in the purchase of spare liner plates for the cement mill at Malabar Cementsâ€™ Cherthala plant before it was commissioned in 2003. There are six accused in the case. Though the chargesheet was filed in 2011 and trial began the same year, the court issued bail to the accused and there has been no further progress in the case.
5. August 2011: Corruption in the purchase of laminated polypropylene for packing cement during 2003-2006. There are 11 accused in the case, including VM Radhakrishnan. Though the chargesheet was presented in 2012, the trial has reached nowhere.
6. July 2015: Corruption in implementation of the reverse air bag house as a pollution control system during 2010-11. This case has 10 accused, including then MLA P Unni, T Balakrishnan IAS and M Gireesh Kumar IAS. Though the chargesheet in the case was submitted in 2016, the government called back the chargesheet for reinvestigation while the trial was on. There has been no progress after that.
7. June 2016: Corruption regarding the long-term purchase of fly ash in 2004. The deal caused a loss of Rs 52.45 lakh. The case, which has four accused, is still in the investigation stage.
8. June 2016: Case pertaining to causing a loss of Rs 2.70 crore while giving commission to dealers during 2014-15. The company MD, K Padmakumar, was arrested and remanded in the case. The case is under investigation and no chargesheet has been presented.
9. June 2016: Discrepancies in the production of cement at the Cherthala plant after importing clinker from abroad during 2014-16. No investigation has happened in the case, in which there are five accused.
10. July 2016: Pertains to selling cement after storing it in the State Warehousing Corporation during June 2013 causing a loss of Rs 2.3 crore.
11. July 2016: Discrepancies as a result of purchase of raw materials during 2010-15. The case was registered as the result of a report from the Comptroller and Auditor General. The initial investigating officers were transferred and the investigation has reached nowhere.
12. January 2003: Corruption in the import of coal from abroad during 1998-99. No chargesheet has been presented in the case.
Abhish K. Bose is a journalist based in Kerala.