Dollar Smuggling Case: Kerala Speaker in quarantine even as doubts remain after Customs' questioning
Kerala Assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan has informed that he has tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday. In a Facebook post, the Assembly Speaker confirmed he has Covid-19 and has asked those who came in contact with him to undergo quarantine.
The timing of the Assembly Speaker's announcement that he tested positive for Covid-19 is quite odd. The news comes less than 24 hours after the Customs department officials visited him at his home and collected his statement regarding his alleged role in the Dollar Smuggling case. Several reports pointed out that the Customs department is likely to continue questioning the Speaker on Sunday. But now, the Speaker announced he has Covid-19.
This is not the first time that Kerala has seen something like this. Soon after questioning gold smuggling prime accused Swapna Suresh and M Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the Enforcement Directorate trained their focus to CM Raveendran. The latter is Pinarayi Vijayan’s Additional Private Secretary and is close to the CM. Sivasankar and Swapna had named Raveendran on multiple occasions, and this led the ED to invite the latter for questioning.
Interestingly, after the agency was scheduled the questioning for November 6, 2020, Raveendran tested positive for Covid on November 5, 2020, rendering him unable to attend the questioning. No agency will be able to approach anyone from the CM’s office for questioning or inquiry as Raveendran testes positive. Fast forward to April 2021, sources have said that Raveendran is admitted to a hospital for absolutely no reason.
Sivasankar, who is at the centre of it all for his alleged illegal involvement in the gold smuggling, Life Mission scam, and many others, has had his hands full with the investigations. As soon as the agencies started the investigations into the cases, the suspended IAS officer had been at the Trivandrum Medical College for alleged back pain. However, the Medical Board conveyed that there were no serious issues. He later went to an Ayurveda hospital in the city for the same issue.
During the initial ED questioning, Sivasankar had reported severe chest pain and the officers had to stop the questioning. As the case progressed, the former Principal Secretary got himself admitted to an Ayurveda hospital. The Kerala High Court, considering the treatment told officers that no arrest could be made until October 24. When his anticipatory bail fell through on October 28, the ED officers would take him in for questioning from the hospital and arrest him the same day.
However, despite the evidence against him, the questioning didn’t go smoothly since Sivasankar kept complaining of back pain and physical discomfort. Considering the suspended IAS officer’s ill health, the Court established certain ground rules in regards to time for rest, duration of continuous questioning, visitation rights for a lawyer, and so on. The ED would not gain anything good due to the health issues, and the agency went on to request for another extension, which the Court grants.
There was another case involving a celebrity civil servant last year. Sriram Venkitaraman had recently returned from the United States after having completed a programme at Harvard, and he had been celebrating. A female friend of his picked him up and the young bureaucrat decided that he would drive. His “rash and negligent” driving would kill journalist KM Basheer that very night. The protocol the police followed that night wouldn’t have received the criticism it did if it weren’t for the fact that a journalist died.
The police took Sriram to a hospital before questioning him on the events, and the officers failed to file it and collect information from the witnesses. Moreover, once taken to the General Hospital he was to have been transferred to the Medical College, but Sriram was instead taken to a posh room in a private hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. Following severe criticism, he was transferred to the prisoner’s ward in the Medical College.
However, all of this transfer from one to another was “necessary” because he had developed “severe spinal injury” because of the accident. Adding to it, the officers “failed” to test Sriram’s blood alcohol level from the night and the sample was collected later, resulting in distorted data. The “spinal injury” helped Sriram escape the media onslaught and the police inquest for a while.
In this day and age, credibility is a rare entity and repeated occurrence of incidents like this can be a credibility killer.