Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday rejected the opposition Congress-led UDF’s demand for a High Court-monitored CBI probe into the sensational gold smuggling case, in which a prime accused had levelled serious allegations against him, his family members and some top bureaucrats. Vijayan, in the state Assembly, also rejected the reported allegations by the Enforcement Directorate, one of the central agencies probing the case, that the CPI (M)-led Left government in the state was trying to scuttle the investigation and so the case be shifted to Bengaluru. Irked over Vijayan’s response, the opposition members trooped into the well of the House raising slogans against him asking ”why are you afraid of the CBI probe?”, prompting Speaker M B Rajesh to complete the scheduled businesses in a hurry and adjourned the House sine die.
The heated arguments began when Vijayan was replying to a submission by Leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan quoting media reports that the ED has approached the Supreme Court seeking the shifting of the case outside the state citing various reasons. Instead of directly attacking Vijayan and his government over the development, Satheesan tactfully criticised the ED and turned the tables on the Chief Minister saying a High Court-monitored CBI probe was necessary to prove their innocence and to ensure that the case was not sabotaged.
The LoP also said Indian National Congress (INC) was of the opinion that the BJP-led union government was misusing central investigating agencies to eliminate their political opponents and so he suspected that whether the ED’s move to shift the case outside Kerala was to sabotage the sensational case. Reasserting the gravity of the case, Satheesan said as per available information, gold had been brought illegally to the state 28 times by the accused and the yellow metal worth Rs 80 crore had been smuggled during the respective period. Sarcastically thanking the Leader of Opposition for criticising the central agencies and taking a ”deviation” from their stand so far in the issue, Vijayan said all central agencies are acting under the influence of the Centre and the CBI also has the same limitation. He also alleged that the CBI was an agency which had been widely misused by the central governments in various cases across the country. Pointing out that the smuggling case was completely the Centre’s subject and does not come under the purview of the state government, he said so it cannot make any request about which agency should probe the case.
”The state government cannot say which agency should probe the gold smuggling case as it is not a state subject. There is no need for the state government to take up that responsibility,” he said. Several agencies including the Enforcement Directorate, NIA and Customs are currently probing the case and if any of them feels any limitation in their present investigation, it was up to them to take the decision to hand over the case to others.
Rejecting media reports about ED’s charges that the state government was trying to sabotage the investigation, he said the central agency has not made any official communication in this regard. ”Since the beginning, we have taken a stand that the case should be probed thoroughly and efficiently…What the state government and the public society want is a professional investigation from the central agencies,” he said.
The Chief Minister also criticised the opposition Congress and BJP and a section of media saying they were acting in accordance with the allegations levelled by the accused in the case without the backing of any evidence. The sensational gold smuggling case came to the limelight again recently after Swapna Suresh, a prime accused in the case, gave a secret statement in a court and levelled serious allegations against Vijayan, his family members and a former minister and some top bureaucrats.
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