The Supreme Court has allowed Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s former Principal Secretary M Sivasankar to move to trial court for interim bail in case of a health emergency. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) opposed Sivasankar’s bail plea, claiming that he does not have any serious health conditions warranting the grant of bail on medical grounds.
Sivasankar’s counsel requested permission from the Supreme Court to move the trial court for bail as the top court is going on vacation soon. The counsel argued, “If Your Lordships permit, I may be allowed to go to the Special Court on this aspect as the Supreme Court is closing.”
The Supreme Court allowed Sivasankar to move to the special court seeking interim bail in case of a medical emergency. The court said, “Since the Respondent did not have sufficient time to file counter, therefore the matter has to necessarily be adjourned to July. The petitioner has moved the Court seeking bail on medical grounds. According to the standing counsel for the Respondent, this aspect has been considered by both the courts below. However, we are of the view that in case of any emergency, it will be open to the petitioner to approach the special court on this aspect in the interim.”
The Supreme Court was hearing Sivasankar’s plea seeking bail in a money laundering case concerning the Kerala Government’s LIFE Mission Project. The plea was filed challenging the Kerala High Court’s April 13 order dismissing Sivasankar’s bail application.
LIFE Mission Scam
The money laundering case pertains to the alleged illegal gratification received in exchange for awarding the construction contract for building 140 housing units under the LIFE Mission Project for the poor who lost their shelter in the 2018 floods, utilising the funds donated by the UAE Red Crescent and the land provided by the Kerala Government.
It is pertinent to note that Santhosh Eapan, the managing director of UNITAC, the construction firm selected for the construction of the houses under the LIFE Mission project had informed ED that the firm paid a bribe worth Rs 4.48 crore to Sivasankar and certain officials at the UAE Consulate, including Swapna Suresh, for the project.
The ED said, “A conspiracy was hatched by the Consulate employees with active support of M. Sivasankar, then Pr. Secretary to the Chief Minister to generate commission as bribe from the funds donated by Red Crescent by awarding the LIFE Mission project to M/s Unitac Builders and Developers and M/s Sane Ventures LLP run by Santhosh Eappen. From the funds received from UAE Red Crescent, Santhosh Eappen had arranged an upfront commission as bribe for UAE Consulate Officials and Kerala Government Officials by withdrawing money from the bank accounts of the companies of Santhosh Eappen, which is also admitted by him,” in its press release dated March 23, 2023.
The Additional Solicitor General R Sankaranarayanan had opposed Sivasankar’s bail application and submitted that Sivasankar is the kingpin who orchestrated money laundering and bribery since the beginning. Furthermore, the counsel submitted that he could impede the investigation if released on bail.
Furthermore, it is pertinent to note that Sivasankar is also an accused in the Kerala Gold Smuggling Case wherein the Customs and Preventive Commissionerate seized 30 kgs of gold from diplomatic cargo. The consignment worth Rs 15 crore was sent by air cargo at the international airport in Thiruvananthapuram. He was arrested in October 2020 and underwent custody until the High Court granted him bail in January 2021 in the case.
The former Principal Secretary was found in regular touch with accused Swapna Suresh based on call records.