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Unpleasant news for Pinarayi from Kerala High Court

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HC orders for notice to Pinarayi and daughter Veena Vijayan (and others)

Kerala (VSK). Justice K. Babu of Kerala High Court (HC) has ordered to issue notices to Pinarayi Vijayan, his daughter Veena Vijayan, Congress leader and former LoP Ramesh Chennithala and Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leader and former Deputy LoP and former minister P.K. Kunjalikkutty in connection with the controversy of receiving monthly payment from CMRL company which is in the business of ilmenite mining. Total number of respondents is twelve. High Court said that the defendants should be heard.

This journal had reported in August 2023 the shocking allegation that Veena Vijayan, daughter of Pinarayi Vijayan, CPM supremo and Kerala Chief Minister, got the monthly payment for three years, 2017-20, for some services which she was supposed to provide; but no service was rendered. According to Income Tax Interim Settlement Board, functioning under Section 245AA of the Income Tax Act, the payment got was Rs 1.72 cr. The New Delhi Branch of the Board had reportedly stated that these payments were made, thanks to their close association with a high-profile VIP. The controversy started back in January 25, 2019.

The HC order has come up in connection with the petition filed by late RTI activist Girish Babu in the wake of the dismissal of the petition, for Vigilance enquiry, by Muvattupuzha Vigilance Court, a lower court. The dismissed petition prayed for enquiry into the allegations of monthly payment CM Pinarayi, her daughter Veena Vijayan, late former CM Oommen Chandy, Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala and IUML leader Kunjalikkutty received from CMRL. The petitioner argued that the dismissal of the petition with the excuse of lack of prior permission from the government was wrong. He argued that Court had not asked him if he had sought the government permission and had not heard his arguments.

After the sudden demise of the petitioner Girish Babu in September, 2023, his family members submitted before HC that they are not interested in continuing the litigation procedure hence the HC order can be construed as suo-moto. In fact, HC had appointed an amicus-curiae to assist it in this case in view of the petition. Therefore, obviously the amicus curiae report has its own bearing on the latest HC order.

The investigation brought to light concrete evidence of improper payment of substantial amounts of monies to media houses, trade union leaders and political VIPs. Also, a document which talks about agreements between Veena Vijayan and her IT firm Exalogic Solutions was reportedly discovered during the scrutiny of the residence of K.S. Sureshkumar, the Chief Financial Officer of CMRL.

Reports suggest that the investigation team scrutinised the records of tax payment from 2013-2014 to 2019-2020. It exposed a pattern of exaggerated expense and major tax evasion on the part of CMRL. As a result, IT took actions against CMRL and its key officials including S.N. Sasidharan Kartha, its MD.

The Income Tax Interim Settlement Board (ITISB), formed under Section 245AA of the IT Act, has concluded its operations including investigations and deliberations. It is reported that the decisions of the Board is final and no chance for appeals. ITISB’s role is to evaluate the settlement applications from Individuals on alleged tax evasion.

Reports suggest that Veena and her firm Exalogic Solutions had reached agreement with CMRL in 2016 and 2017, respectively to render services on IT, marketing consultancy and software services. And, further investigations revealed that these services were allegedly never fulfilled. Despite CMRL MD’s initial claim of compliance with the contractual terms, his statement was challenged by the IT Department.

It is alleged that according to the IT’s findings, a significant sum of Rs 1.72 cr was transferred to Veena and Exalogic Solutions between 2017 and 2020. The ITISB’s Bench concludes that these funds were disbursed for services which were not actually provided at all.

CMRL officials have reportedly submitted that they are not aware of getting any services from Veena and Exalogic. CMRL’s Chief Financial Officer K.S. Sureshkumar and Chief General Manager P. Sureshkumar are among those officials.

The latest development is a rude shock to the CM and his government. It is to be remembered that since CM Pinarayi presides the Home Ministry, Vigilance Department comes under him. Therefore, if Vigilance Department initiates enquiry, it will not be nice for the CM to continue in power. Now, the political observers wait and see what step CM takes.

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