Kerala Cabinet today finalised the terms and reference for the judicial probe into the solar panel scam but did not specify under its purview the Chief Minister and his office which had come under a cloud over the multi-crore rupee fraud.
Announcing the details of the terms and references, which focussed on all allegations raised inside and outside the assembly over the scam, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, however, maintained "both my office and I" have come under its ambit. "When we say all allegations raised in the House and outside, what it means?" he said. "Charges were levelled against the Chief Minister's office and me", he said adding not the accused persons in the case. "Now it was the for the opposition or any person to approach the Judicial Commission and give evidences in support of their charges", Chandy said when asked about the main demand of CPI-M-led LDF on the inclusion of the Chief Minster's Office and Chandy under the purview of the Commission.
Solar scam pertains to cheating of several persons of crores of rupees by one Saritha S Nair and her accomplice Biju Radhakrishnan, both now under judicial custody, by offering solar panel solutions by allegedly flaunting their 'clout' in the CM's office. The case that came to light in June last took a political turn as three of Chandy's staff members were forced to quit office over their alleged link with the prime accused Saritha Nair, prompting the opposition to press for Chandy's resignation. Among them, Chandy's personal assistant Tenny Joppan was arrested.
Seizing the issue, LDF launched a series of agitations demanding the resignation of Chandy culminating in the siege of secretriate by thousands of front volunteers for two days in August last which forced the government to announce the judicial probe.
Asserting that the government had nothing to hide in the case, Chandy said "we want all issues connected with the case to come for judicial scrutiny". On the Speicial Investigation Team probing the scam questioning him, he said "the probe team took my statement under section 161 of IPC, which is mandatory when anyone gives a statement in connection with himself". Chandy also said it reflected the government's transparency and that "noboy is above the law. This is what is called law will take its own course", he added. The six-point terms and references included any base for the allegations of solar scam, if there are any what are they and who are invoved in it.
The Commission was mandated to find out whether the government had incurred any financial loss due to the scam, if there were any loss, how much it was and who was responsible for that and if the government had favoured any of the fraudlent solar companies by any order. It would also look into the lapses, if any, on handling the cases connected with solar scam from 2006 during the tenure of previous LDF rule.
The Kerala High Court was expected to respond favourably within a week to the government's request for sparing the service of a sitting judge to head the Commission, Chandy said.
CPI(M) sharply reacted to the "exclusion of the Chief Minister and his office" as a specific term of reference of the probe and demanded resignation of Chandy till the inquiry cleared his name. "An inquiry which does not specifically bring under its ambit the role of Chandy will not be acceptable as he and his office had been the epicentre of the scam ", CPI(M) state Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said in a statement here. He recalled that while pressing for a judicial probe, LDF's intention was to ascertain the alleged involvement of Chandy and his office in the scandal and not as a mere investigation into the offences committed by those already listed as accused in the case.
Though it had been vaguely said that all issues raised within and outside the assembly would come under the scope of the probe, there was no justification for leaving out the Chief Minister's role in the whole scam as one of the specific issues to be looked into by the inquiry Commission, the CPI(M) leader added.