Kerala HC Expunges Solar Commission’s Findings On Sexual Allegations Against Former CM Oommen Chandy

Kerala HC Expunges Solar Commission’s Findings On Sexual Allegations Against Former CM Oommen Chandy

In a partial relief to former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, the High Court of Kerala has ordered the expunction of the observations and findings made by the Solar Commission on the sexual allegations made against him based on Saritha Nair’s letter.

Oommen Chandy had approached the high court challenging the findings and recommendations of Justice Sivarajan Commission, which found that the former CM had abused his powers to help Saritha Nair and her company to defraud several persons with offers of selling solar panels. The commission also found the allegations of Saritha Nair that she was subjected to sexual exploitation to be true.

Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar, the single judge who dealt with the matter, held that the observations and findings on sexual allegations in the commission report, and the recommendations based thereupon shall stand expunged. However, other findings of the commission were left undisturbed. The court also made it clear that “the Government shall treat the report of the Commission of Inquiry as comprising of only those parts as have not been expunged through this judgment”.

The allegations, which were known as “the solar scam” in popular parlance, had created a major political storm in Kerala. When the commission tabled its inquiry report before the present LDF government, it kicked up another controversy, especially with its positive findings endorsing one letter written by Saritha Nair dated 19.07.2013, in which she had made allegations of sexual exploitation.  On 19.12.2017, when the petition by Chandy challenging the commission report came for admission, Justice Nambiar passed a restraint order preventing media discussion about the contents of Saritha Nair’s letter, observing that its contents could prejudicially affect the petitioner and excessive publicity could also prejudice the petitioner by creating a public opinion which could interfere with the administration of justice, resulting in denial of fair trial. It was also observed that it could affect the reputation of the petitioner, and thereby, infringe fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

In the final judgment, Justice Nambiar appreciated the media for showing maturity and responsibility by exercising restraint as directed in the interim order. “On its part, the media has been supportive of the cause of justice by complying with the directions in the interim order of this Court and demonstrating the responsibility and maturity that is expected of it in a democracy,” said the judgment.

Since the judgment robbed the contents of the letter of its credibility, the gag order with respect to its publication was lifted.

The case witnessed elaborate hearings, with senior counsel Kapil Sibal appearing for Ommen Chandy and senior counsel Ranjit Kumar appearing for the government. Special sittings were held on several Saturdays for this matter exclusively, so as not to disturb regular daily listings.