19 Jun 2023 11:54 AM GMT
Leader of the Opposition of the Kerala Legislative Assembly and MLA V.D Satheeshan and MLA Ramesh Chennithala have approached the Kerala High Court seeking a Court monitored enquiry into the project for Automated Traffic Enforcement System for Safe Kerala. Automated Traffic Enforcement System for Safe Kerala Project was envisioned by the Transport Department to install AI cameras across the...
Leader of the Opposition of the Kerala Legislative Assembly and MLA V.D Satheeshan and MLA Ramesh Chennithala have approached the Kerala High Court seeking a Court monitored enquiry into the project for Automated Traffic Enforcement System for Safe Kerala.
Automated Traffic Enforcement System for Safe Kerala Project was envisioned by the Transport Department to install AI cameras across the State for capturing traffic violations and issuing notice to the violators.
The present plea has been filed challenging the orders issued by the Government, action taken by the delegate KELTRON which is a State Government Company, and the alleged illegalities and corruption attached to the installation of AI Cameras that have resulted in nepotism, favouritism and corruption including violation of privacy of persons.
The plea avers that KELTRON submitted a DPR on the project with a cost estimate of Rs.236 crore and that the project could be executed in BOOT method. However, the petitioners state that this was objected to by the Finance Department which claimed that KELTRON did not have the capacity or know-how on the subject and that its cost analysis and estimate was rudimentary and undependable. The petitioners allege that despite the same, "since the actual benefactors of the project had direct access to top most reaches of power, under political pressure, the objections of the Finance Department were swept under the carpet and administrative sanction was given to the project", and work order was issued to KELTRON.
The Congress leaders allege that KELTRON was just "one of the middlemen in the whole transaction which was a scam in the name of traffic safety".
The plea avers that SRIT, which emerged as the successful bidder for the Project, did not satisfy any of the minimum eligibility conditions, and that their only project experience was in 'another scam' called KFone.
"SRIT did not have any technical expertise in the field and was just an empty shell for the politicians and their family members who pulled the strings behind the entire project and were its actual benefactors," the plea states. It has also been averred that the the other companies who bid for the Project were all proxies of SRIT and their only role was to give the appearance of a transparent tender process.
The petitioners allege that corruption was involved while awarding subsequent tenders and sub-leasing the Service Level Agreement (SLA)
The petitioner avers that despite the Finance Department having issued strong objections since the beginning, the same have been brushed aside, and sanction was issued after the Project was completed on April 18, 2023. It further states that the illegalities which were noted in the Project have also been whitewashed stating that KELTRON is a public entity and the project is for the safety of the people.
"In fact, the Government has stepped in and whitewashed not only the clear-cut illegalities in the Project but also the widespread corruption from the conceiving of the project to its birth," it adds.
The petitioners aver that the project involves a pyramid style of corruption right from the stage of issuance of the Government order. It has been averred that the actual cost of equipment, software, civil work and service detailed in the tender document would only come to about Rs.75 crore as revealed by the MD of KELTRON itself in his interview to the press. The petitioners claim that this figure was ballooned to a figure of Rs.236 crore by KELTRON which then tendered it for Rs.151 crore to SRIT. The petitioners add that SRIT sub-leased it to its consortium partners who then signed another agreement between them to off load all responsibilities for supply to the consortium partner at the base of the pyramid for a 60-40 profit split.
"The very concept of 'profit' is alien when a project is said to be implemented for public safety. The specific clause in the agreement for sharing 'profit', makes it clear that the Safe Kerala project is nothing but nothing but a business deal for private companies controlled by people in power," the plea states.
It is further averred that the confidential and private data of the individuals including their driving license and other information from Vahan are left to the mercy of private operators, and that the same has thereby amounted to violation of the Fundamental right to privacy of individuals.
"When the only authority to impose fines on the violators of traffic rules is the concerned officer in the Motor Vehicle Department, holding the rank of MVI or AMVI, as per the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act and Rules, the said duty is now cast on the hands of private companies which will access private data of citizens, impose fines and also provide payment facility. The said delegation of power from the hands of statutory authorities to private companies is per se illegal and also makes the fines imposed unenforceable in the eyes of law," the plea states.
Additionally, the petitioners claim that between the time of KELTRON's proposal in 2018 and its actual delivery in 2023, the technology available and quality of devices have undergone great change, making the components now supplied obsolete and a pure waste of tax payers money.
"It is clear that the out-dated technology and equipment will force the Government to replace the equipment with newer models yet again wasting public money. It is the absence of this check and measure, which ought to have been compulsorily and methodically done, in a project involving crores of tax payers; money that has resulted in a pyramid of shell companies standing to loot public money. As the technology has changed, the product used and purchased had lost value by passage of time by slashing the price in the market. This has not been examined or considered by anyone in their thirst for money-making," the plea further states.
The petitioners have thus claimed that a court ordered enquiry is necessary in the matter on these grounds, since the investigating agencies in the State are 'helpless' in this case.
"Since the corruption is conducted at the top echelons of power, the State Police is completely helpess in the matter. The Central agencies which would have been a natural choice have demonstrated that they will not take any investigation in a route that will harm the current State Government Therefore, it is necessary that the orders whitewashing the scam called Safe Kerala project be set aside and a Court monitored enquiry be ordered into the project. Such an enquiry is the only way to protect public money and to deter the current dispensation from copying the same pyramid pattern in other projects," the plea avers.
The plea has been moved through Advocates Nisha George, J Vishnu, Arun Chandran, A.L. Navaneeth Krishnan and Sidharth R Wariyar.
Case Title: V.D. Satheeshan & Anr. v. State of Kerala & Ors.