The strange occurrence of illnesses in high profile cases in Kerala

With Pinarayi Vijayan’s close aide CM Raveendran testing Covid positive, it is not the first time when bad health had gotten in the way of investigation in Kerala
The strange occurrence of illnesses in high profile cases in Kerala

Soon after questioning gold smuggling prime accused Swapna Suresh and M Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the Enforcement Directorate had 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 question.

The strange occurrence of illnesses in high profile cases in Kerala
ED summons Kerala CM's Additional Private Secretary CM Raveendran

Interestingly, after the agency had scheduled the questioning for Friday, Raveendran tested positive for Covid on Thursday rendering him unable to attend the questioning. Those who worked closely with the Private Secretary, including many from the CM’s office will now have to be in quarantine. No agency will be able to approach anyone from the CM’s office for questioning or inquiry. This is not the first time that investigations have been hindered due to illness and physical discomfort — more so in the last one month.

Sivasankar, who is at the centre of it all for his alleged illegal involvement in the gold smuggling, Life Mission scam, and many others, have 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.

The strange occurrence of illnesses in high profile cases in Kerala
Sivasankar remanded to ED following arrest; report states he helped Swapna 21 times

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 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.

The questioning of Bineesh Kodiyeri, who has been arrested by the ED for his alleged relation to the drug scam, has revealed some financial truth that has shocked many. In the latest update to the case, the Directorate had raided a lot of businesses that are connected to Bineesh. The latter had either financial investment in the companies, or had relation with the individuals who had investment in the companies. Much like Sivasankar’s case, the ED had faced trouble with Bineesh’s ‘bad health’. The Karnataka High Court — since the drug case in question pertains to Bengaluru — had initially granted four days of remand to the agency and the ED had requested for extension when they lost two tending to Bineesh’s health. The latter reported pain in the back, vomiting, and other discomforts during the questioning. In both cases, the apparent health issues have interfered with the investigation but somehow it still pushes on.

The strange occurrence of illnesses in high profile cases in Kerala
Drugs, Gold and Bineesh Kodiyeri: The fall of Communist Party ethos

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 a distorted data. The “spinal injury” helped Sriram escape the media onslaught and the police inquest for a while. More than that, the medical team treating Sriram said that the young bureaucrat suffered from retrograde amnesia. Interestingly, Sriram, also a medical doctor, had reported that he couldn't recall the events before the accident, which made the job of the special investigtion more difficult. The condition was confirmed by a team of psychiatrists, who had also diagnosed Sriram with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Retrogade amnesia is the loss of memory before a triggering event, in this case the accident.

In another high profile case — the infamous TP Chandrasekharan murder — PK Kunjananthan, CPM Panur area committee member, had never really stayed in jail. The same had been notified by the Kerala High Court when considering his plea for parole. The convict had been out on parole for around 380 days in four years. This is very unusual, but as the prosecution explains, “He had been unable to walk and had ill health”. The Court asked whether the other inmates with similar dilemma got the same treatment, which elicited no response from the other side. While Kunjananthan died from his ill health, the fact that he was out on parole for more than normal didn’t seem right and it was often a pointed question against the LDF government.

Then we return to Pinarayi’s aide CM Raveendran and the positive Covid result. It does seem like a good timing for the personal to be testing positive, since it would grant him a week’s time away from the agency’s probe.

The NationWide