The Kerala High Court on Friday gave Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Power Minister Aryadan Mohammed a two-month respite from being investigated by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau in the Solar scam case. Saritha Nair, one of the main accused, alleged she had paid a bribe of Rs.1.9 crore to the Chief Minister through Thomas Kuruvilla - an aide. In recent days, Chandy has chucked out three official aides after they were named as alleged middlemen in the scam which traces its roots to 2013.
Nair has also alleged that Power Minister Aryadan Mohammed was given Rs.40 lakh.
The vigilance court in Thrissur on Thursday had ordered a probe after an FIR against Chandy and Mohammed.
The Hindu reports that the High Court came down heavily on S.S. Vasan, the vigilance judge who had issued the order based on a complaint by a local activist.
Meanwhile, Saritha Nair's deposition continued for the third day and she dragged a new bombshell in - Chief Minister Oommen Chandy's son, reports The Indian Express.
Saritha on Friday also claimed she met the chief minister many times and not just three times as Oommen Chandy said before the commission.
Television channels in Kerala this week aired the audio of a purported conversation between Congress state general secretary Thampanoor Ravi and Saritha S Nair in which Ravi can be heard tutoring Nair ahead of her deposition before a judicial commission. In the audio, Ravi, a loyalist of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, can be purportedly heard telling Nair that her statement before the commission should be in line with what Chandy had said. In his statement, Chandy had told the commission that he had met Saritha three times.
"The Chief Minister’s resignation would virtually mean acceptance of guilt. His continuation would fuel the Opposition’s agitation,” Congress insiders told The Indian Express.
And even as Saritha Nair, one of the main accused in the scandal who hurled bribery allegations against the chief minister on Wednesday, threatened to prove that Chandy was guilty, the UDF lost an RSP legislator, who said he was disgusted with Chandy's government. Police investigators estimate that around Rs 6 crore has been swindled in this scam.
“If there is an iota of substance in the allegation, I will quit public life,” Chandy has said.
A court in Thrissur told Kerala's vigilance department to file a First Information Report (FIR) against Chandy on corruption charges in what has come to be known as the "solar scam".
The genesis of the scam goes back to 2013 when a fake solar energy company named Team Solar -- floated by Biju Radhakrishnan and Saritha S. Nair -- duped several influential people of about 70 million rupees by offering to make them business partners. They also allegedly received advance payments by offering to install solar power units . The company used two women to create political contacts with links leading up to the Chief Minister's office. CNN IBN has the lowdown.
An editorial comment in The Hindu says Chandy has no option but to fight his case legally. "By doing so politically, and perhaps by pleading his case to his party in the run-up to Assembly elections a few months from now, he would risk drawing Kerala into a constitutional crisis," says the newspaper.