In a blow to the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government, the Kerala HC on Tuesday rejected pleas seeking to quash the probe of CBI into the LIFE Mission project. LIFE Mission is the Kerala government's flagship housing scheme for all the landless and homeless in the state. CBI has alleged corruption and Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act violations in the construction of apartments in Wadakkancherry under the aegis of the LIFE Mission project. Justice P Somarajan of the Kerala HC was hearing petitions filed by the LIFE Mission CEO and Santhosh Eappen of Unitac Builders and Developers which bagged the contract of the project.
Casting aspersions on the MoU signed between the Kerala government and the UAE Red Crescent Authority, the HC noted in paragraph 25 of the order, "The typical nature of the facts involved in the instant case would reveal a high profile intellectual fraud played in furtherance of MoU so as to avoid an audit by CAG and to get kickbacks and gratifications. The very nature of the mischief done in furtherance of MoU would suggest the involvement of highly educated professionals – a mastermind behind it". At the same time, the HC offered a slight breather to the Kerala CM and his Ministerial colleagues by making it clear that the political executive cannot be held responsible for the wrong done by the non-political executive.
In paragraph 27, Justice Somarajan observed, "In the instant case, it appears that all these mischief were done at the time of implementation of part of project “LIFE Mission” by the permanent members attached to it – the IAS officers with Swapna Suresh, Sandeep Nair, Sarith, Santhosh Eappen and their allies. The mere fact that policy decisions were taken by the Chief Minister, the Ministers or the Legislature, may not by itself be sufficient to extend criminal liability against them for the wrong done by the non-political executive attached with the project and their allies. Hence it is not permissible to extend criminal liability on political executive merely because they have taken a policy decision and pro-active steps in its implementation."
The target of the project is to provide safe housing to nearly 4.30 lakh homeless people in Kerala within a span of 5 years. This entails modern housing complexes with the provision of livelihoods and social services such as primary health care, geriatric support, skill development and financial inclusion. The Kerala government decided to give priority to the coastal population, plantation workers and those who stay in temporary shelters on government land.