The High Court Single Bench presided over by Justice Ashok Menon had denied M Sivasankar’s anticipatory bail application today. The Bench had reserved its judgements for today after hearing the arguments on October 23. Following the verdict, the Enforcement Directorate took the former Principal Secretary to Kerala Chief Minister into custody from a Ayurveda hospital in the capital, where the latter was seeking treatment. The ED will be taking the suspended IAS officer to their office in Ernakulam.
Appearing for Sivasankar, Senior Advocate P Vijaybhanu had argued that his client had been cooperating with the investigating agencies and yet they have found no incriminating evidence against him. Vijaybhanu added that the agencies are conducting the investigation under political pressure. Meanwhile, appearing for the Enforcement Directorate Additional Solicitor General SV Raju maintained that the current investigation point to the possibility that Sivasankar is the kingpin and that the prime accused Swapna Suresh is his agent.
The High Court denied the bail application citing that there is relevant information against Sivasankar. Moreover, since investigating officers have not confirmed whether he is a suspect or perpetrator, the Court cannot block the investigation by granting bail. The Bench added that being a senior IAS officer, Sivasankar must submit to ED’s questioning, and he should have shown great caution while dealing with Swapna and crew. Adding to this, the statements from Swapna Suresh and Venugopal seem to be against the formal principal secretary. The court urged the officers to complete all procedures before initiating arrest, especially make sure that relevant evidence is available for any arrest procedures. The Court’s observation that a casual encounter with Swapna shouldn’t lead Sivasankar to involve in the former’s financial transaction was a blow to the IAS officer.
The case pertains to the smuggling of almost 30 kg of gold worth around Rs 15 crore via a diplomatic bag at the Thiruvananthapuram airport. The Customs officers caught the case and followed it to Swapna Suresh, who had been an employee at the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram. The investigative officers tracked the case to Sivasankar, who had alleged interactions with the prime accused. After the allegation came about, the Kerala government suspended the officer in July for violations of conduct and the latter approached the court for an anticipatory bail early October.
Meanwhile, the opposition has taken offensive stand against the government. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala noted that “Sivasankar is a symptom of the problem that is the CM”. He said, “Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan should resign and surrender before the law.” KPCC President Mullappally Ramachandran told media persons that it the ED taking Sivasankar into custody is equal to taking the CM into custody. He described the event as only “a tip of the iceberg. V Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs, congratulated the investigative officers and mentioned that the officers had “faced tremendous pressure from the state government.”