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Kerala HC Declines Stay On CBI Investigation In LIFE Mission Case

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
1 Oct 2020 7:43 AM GMT
Kerala HC Declines Stay On CBI Investigation In LIFE Mission Case
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The High Court of Kerala on Thursday refused to stay the investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) in the 'LIFE Mission' case.Considering the petition for admission, a single bench of Justice V G Arun said that the Court cannot interfere with the investigation at this stage and that it needs to wait for more details to emerge. The bench orally remarked "let the investigation...

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The High Court of Kerala on Thursday refused to stay the investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) in the 'LIFE Mission' case.

Considering the petition for admission, a single bench of Justice V G Arun said that the Court cannot interfere with the investigation at this stage and that it needs to wait for more details to emerge. The bench orally remarked "let the investigation go on". The bench added that the CEO has not been named as an accused and that he has only been summoned to produce certain documents and that he should cooperate with the probe.

The Court will consider the petition next on October 8.

The Chief Executive Officer of 'LIFE Mission' project under the Kerala Government had approached the HC seeking to quash the FIR registered over alleged violations of FCRA in relation to accepting foreign donations from UAE.

Appearing for the CEO via video conferencing, Senior Advocate K V Vishwanathan argued that the provisions of the FCRA are not applicable to the foreign contributions received by the private contractors from the UAE Red Crescent for the construction of housing plots for the homeless under the 'LIFE Mission' project. The State Government had no role in the agreement between Red Crescent and the private contractors. The CBI registered the FIR hastily without any preliminary enquiry out of political considerations, he submitted.

The plea seeks to quash the FIR registered by the central agency on September 24 to the extent it relates to public servants under the government.

'LIFE(Livelihood, Inclusion and Financial Empowerment) Mission' is a housing project mooted by the Kerala Government for the benefit of the homeless.

The issue relates to the project for the construction of 140 housing units in Wadakkanchery in Thrissur district. As per the application filed in the HC, in 2019, the 'Red Crescent Authority' of the United Arab Emirates offered to sponsor the project and accordingly, a Memorandum of Understanding was entered into that year itself. As per the MoU, the sponsor was to execute the project through independent contractors.

Alleging that foreign contributions to the tune of 10 Lakh Arab Emirates Dirham were transferred to the private contractors - Unitac Ltd and Sane Ventures - in violation of FCRA norms, a legislator belonging to the Congress party, Anil Akkara, filed a complaint before the CBI on September 20.

After four days, the CBI registered the FIR under Section 35 read with Section 3 of the FCRA and Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code arraying the Managing Directors of Unitac and Sane Ventures as accused numbers 1 and 2 respectively.

As the third accused, the FIR mentioned "unknown public servants/private citizens".

Aggrieved by linking public servants to the FIR, the CEO of LIFE Mission approached the High Court of Kerala under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The application states that neither the Kerala Government nor the officials of LIFE Mission have accepted any foreign contributions. It is also stated out that the construction agreement is between Red Crescent and the private contractors and that the government was not a party to it.

It is further argued that Unitec and Sane Ventures, being construction companies carrying out work on the basis of an agreement with Red Crescent, do not come within the purview of Section 3 of the FCRA, which lists out the entities prohibited from accepting foreign contributions.

"Therefore, even if it is assumed for argument's sake that they had received any foreign contribution or any amount from Red Crescent, no offence under the Act can be said to have been committed", the plea states.

The competence of the CBI to register the FIR is also questioned. It is contended that Section 43 of the FCRA does not empower the Central Government to issue a notification specifying an agency to conduct any investigation in any State for the offences under the Act to the exclusion of the State Police machinery.

The government further alleges the move of the CBI is to expand the scope of the FIR to undertake a "roving enquiry" against the government officials circumventing the requirement of preliminary sanction under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

"The CBI cannot investigate any offence other than the offence referred under the Act. The investigation of CBI, stretching beyond the offences under the Act, particularly going by the nature of the allegations in the Complaint, is an attempt to overcome the statutory prescription mandated by Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act", the plea states.

It is alleged that the CBI is motivated by "extraneous political considerations" and that the FIR registered "in haste without preliminary enquiry" is mala-fide.

"It seems that the investigation, initiated though for the purported violation of Section 3 of the Act, is actually with the ulterior motive to satisfy the whims and fancies of the Managers of the investigating agency", reads the plea.

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