In a setback to Kerala Power Minister and CPI-M leader M M Mani, a court today refused to discharge him as an accused in a 34-year-old murder case, prompting opposition Congress and BJP to make a strong pitch for his resignation, which he rejected.
Thodupuzha Additional Sessions Court Judge V G Sreedevi dismissedthe discharge petition by Mani, a member of the CPI-M state Secretariat.
With the dismissal of his petition, Mani will continue as the second accused in the case related to the murder of Youth Congress leader Anchery Baby in November, 1982. It was reopened during the previous UDF regime and Mani made an accused.
The court verdict is seen as an embarrassment to the ruling CPI(M)-LDF government, which had hardly a month ago appointed him as Minister following the resignation of Industries Minister E P Jayarajan on charges of nepotism.
The Judge also permitted a prosecution petition to list CPIM Idukki District Secretary K K Jayachandran and CITU District leader A K Damodaran as accused in the case. Reacting to the verdict, Mani said he would fight the case politically and legally.
"It is a politically motivated case. I will fight the case both legally and politically' he told reporters in Kottayam, adding he would file an appeal soon.
"I was made minister by LDF. I was framed during UDF rule when Ramesh Chennithala and Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan were handling the Home department," he charged.
While Congress and BJP lost no time in demanding that Mani resign immediately or be sacked by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the state unit of the CPI-M, heading the LDF regime, rallied behind him, saying it was 'politically motivated'.
"The demand is 'politically motivated... The case existed when Mani contested the state assembly elections. There is nothing new in the court verdict. The demand for his resignation has no basis and he can continue as Minister," CPI(M) State Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said in Thrissur. Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala of Congress said Mani had no right to continue in office, KPCC President V M Sudheeran opined it was not proper for Mani to remain a minister.
BJP State President Kummanam Rajasekharan also said the Minister does not have the right to remain in office following the court verdict.
"Mani does not have the right to continue as minister even for a minute", Rajasekharan said in a statement.
Youth Congress and student wing KSU activists waved black flags at the Minister in Kochi.
The outfits' activists also took out a protest march to the State Secretariat here demanding Mani's resignation.
At Thodupuzha, BJP's Yuva Morcha activists burnt an effigy of the Minister.
Baby was shot dead at Udumbanchola in the district on Nov 13, 1982. There were nine accused and all acquitted by a lower court, which was later upheld by the high court. The case was reopened by the previous Congress-led UDF government after Mani made two controversial speeches in 2012 in which he publicly stated that the Communist party had often eliminated its political foes in Idukki district in the 1980s.
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