Friday, February 23, 2024

Supreme Court extends interim medical bail of M Sivasankar in LIFE Mission case

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The Supreme Court has extended till December 2 the interim medical bail of M Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who was arrested by the Enfrocement Directorate (ED) for his alleged involvement in the LIFE Mission scam case.

The bench comprising Justice AS Bopanna and Justice MM Sundresh were hearing the plea.

Justice Bopanna said that the regular bail plea will come up for hearing after two months.

Justice MM Sundresh, however, said it would be better if the former Principal Secretary surrendered after two months.

Earlier on August 2, the same Bench had granted interim medical bail to Sivasankar, directing him not to visit any other place apart from his home and the hospital where he would be undergoing surgery and treatment for a spine ailment during the bail period of two months.

He was further told not to misuse liberty or influence any witnesses during the period. 

Representing the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta opposed the bail application and pressed for judicial custody of Sivasankar in the hospital considering his political clout.

The SG pointed out that there was a bad tendency these days of interim medical bail becoming permanent.

However, the Apex Court granted interim bail to the accused on account of the long period of incarceration undergone by him, apart from the post-operative treatment needed after surgery.

Sivasankar had moved the Apex Court against the Kerala High Court order of April, which denied him interim medical bail on the grounds that the former Principal Secretary continued to hold influence over the State government and the Chief Minister.

The Single-Judge Bench of Justice A. Badharudeen noted that even though Sivasankar may not be a flight risk, he had the power to tamper with evidence and/or influence witnesses.

Justice Badharudeen further observed that after Sivasankar was previously granted bail in the 2020 gold smuggling case, he was quickly reinstated to his previous post.

The Enforcement Directorate had arrested Sivasankar on February 14 under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) against Sivasankar said that several persons, including government officials, had received pecuniary advantages and illegal gratification out of the funds received from UAE Red Crescent meant for flood victims in Kerala through the LIFE Mission project.

The Livelihood, Inclusion and Financial Empowerment (LIFE) Mission was a housing security scheme of Kerala government, which aimed at providing houses to all the landless and homeless residents of the state.

The case involved one specific project under this scheme, which has allegedly been funded by a foreign entity in violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

The issue is also being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

In 2020, the LIFE Mission project ran into trouble after Anil Akkara, the then MLA for Wadakkanchery in Thrissur district filed a complaint stating that it violated the FCRA norms. His specific complaint was against the project in his constituency of Wadakkanchery.

The state government agreed to allot land to building contractors chosen by the donors for the project at Wadakkanchery, funded by the UAE consulate’s Red Crescent.

Anil Akkara said that funds for Unitac builders (which was chosen as contractor) from Red Crescent, were obtained by the Kerala government thereby, violating the FCRA.

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