In a setback to ruling Congress-led UDF in Kerala ahead of civic polls, a Special Vigilance Court here on Monday ordered further probe into the bar bribery case against state Finance Minister K M Mani, rejecting the investigating agency's final report seeking closure of the case.
Enquiry Commissioner and Special Judge John K Illekadan declined to accept the final investigation report by Vigilance and Anti-corruption Bureau which had exonerated Mani stating there was no evidence to corroborate the charges that he demanded Rs five crore and accepted Rs one crore as bribe for renewal of licence to 470 Indian made foreign liquor bars in 2014.
The court observed that the final report was "not acceptable" and the matter was "remitted back to investigation officer for further probe".
Vigilance Bureau had filed its final report in June holding that there was no evidence to frame a charge sheet against the Finance Minister and the case should be closed.
CPI(M) veteran and opposition leader in the Kerala Assembly V S Achuthanandan and eight others had filed petitions challenging the closure report holding that there was enough evidence to prosecute Mani in the case.
The petitioners had sought a fresh probe into the case and quashing of the Vigilance closure report.
The case was registered against Mani, supremo of the Kerala Congress (M), the third largest partner in ruling UDF, on the basis of a complaint filed by Achuthanandan.
The Marxist veteran and the former chief minister had filed the complaint based on the bribery charges raised by Biju Ramesh, working president of Kerala State Bar Hotel Owners Association.
Based on the allegation and complaint lodged by Achuthanandan, the vigilance conducted a Quick Verification and registered an FIR in the case.
The state witnessed a series of agitations by CPI(M)-led LDF Opposition demanding resignation of Mani since the alleged scam came to light in November 2014.
The Assembly had also witnessed unprecedented violence over the issue when LDF members tried to prevent Mani from presenting the budget on March 13 last.
The development comes ahead of next month's civic polls in the state.