With less than 100 days for assembly polls in Kerala, the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government has recommended a CBI probe into cases against former chief minister Oommen Chandy and five others filed over allegations of sexual abuse linked to the state's infamous 'solar scam'.
However, it will be the decision of the Thiruvananthapuram unit of the investigating office to probe the eight-year-old allegations. Those hit by the 'solar' heat include Congress MPs KC Venugopal, Hibi Eden and Adoor Prakash, MLA AP Anil Kumar, and former Congress leader and present BJP vice president AP Abdullakkutty, apart from Chandy. Incidentally, Chandy was made the convenor of the UDF election committee on Friday.
The Congress called the move "politically motivated" and Chandy said he was ready to face any probe. "The LDF has been in power in Kerala for five years and they have not been able to prove any allegation against us. Now they are trying to ally with powers at the Centre. We are not against any probe. Despite a case registered under non-bailable section based on a complaint in 2018, why has the state government not taken any action till now? " Chandy asked.
The scandal centred on a fictitious company called Team Solar formed in 2013 by an alleged con woman, who is the complainant in the case of alleged sexual exploitation, and her second husband, Biju Radhakrishnan, who boasted of their contacts with the chief minister’s office. They cheated people out of money by seeking investments with the promise of making them business partners or offering to install solar power units in the state while Oommen Chandy was Kerala chief minister.
Here is the timeline of the eight-year-old controversial case:
June 3, 2013: A 34-year-old woman is arrested for cheating and the High Court orders an investigation against Team Solar. One Biju Radhakrishnan, who claimed to be her second husband, is arrested the following week from Coimbatore for the alleged murder of his first wife Reshmi.
June 12, 2013: Opposition alleges the woman has links with the CM's office.
June 14, 2013: CM Chandy removes his PA Tenny Joppan, gunman Salim Raj from his staff.
June 28, 2013: Tenny Joppan arrested.
July 2013: Phone call report of the woman reveals her record of communication with four state ministers. Sridharan Nair, a quarry owner, claims that the woman arranged a meeting with the chief minister at his office, which the CM immediately denied.
July 30, 2013: The first charge sheet against the woman in the cheating case submitted.
July 2013: The Congress high command rejects Chandy's readiness to resign and asks him to continue on the post.
August 12, 2013: The opposition LDF launches statewide protests, demanding the chief minister's resignation and there is a secretariat blockade.
August 16, 2013: A judicial probe is ordered following the secretariat blockade by the Left parties.
September 10, 2013: Salim Raj, the sacked gunman of the chief minister, is arrested.
October 2013: Retired High Court judge G Sivarajan appointed as a one-man probe commission on October 23.
December 2013: With the woman's advocate Fenny Balakrishnan's claim of possessing "private videos" of UDF legislators, LDF intensifies protest campaigns.
January 2014: Biju Radhakrishnan is sentenced to life imprisonment in Reshmi murder case.
February 2014: The woman released from jail.
April 4, 2014: Former chief minister VS Achuthanandan files a petition in Kerala High Court demanding a CBI probe into the scam
July 2014: The woman denies before the commission the involvement of any ministers or MLAs in the scam.
April 2015: A letter said to be written by the woman from Pathanamthitta jail, naming many UDF leaders, goes public.
October 2015: The term of the solar commission extended until April 2016.
December 4, 2015: Kerala Police goes to Coimbatore for confiscating the CDs allegedly containing sexual acts of the leaders.
December 2015: Biju Radhakrishnan accuses Congressmen KC Venugopal (then MP of Alappuzha constituency), Aryadan Muhammed (then electricity minister), and Kerala Congress (B) MLA KB Ganesh Kumar of demanding money.
January 14, 2016: The woman contradicts her earlier statement and claims to have bribed the CM. She also accuses Aryadan Muhammed of receiving Rs 40 lakh.
January 25, 2016: Oommen Chandy confirms before the commission that he had met the woman thrice. Chandy maintains that the charges against him and his office were 'politically motivated'.
May 2016: LDF government led by Pinarayi Vijayan takes power in Kerala.
July 2016: A case of sexual harassment filed following a complaint submitted to chief minister's office.
August 2016: Bijo Alexander, the nodal officer assisting the Justice Sivarajan Commission, confirms that 14 cases were pending against the woman and Biju, apart from the scam-related ones. Chandy, along with 20 other witnesses, summoned by the commission again.
October 2016: A Bengaluru City Civil and Sessions Court orders Chandy and Kochi-based SCOSSA Educational Consultants Private Ltd to pay up over Rs 1.6 crore to Bengaluru-based real estate consultant MK Kuruvila, a victim of the solar scam.
December 16, 2016: Perumbavoor Judicial First Class Magistrate Court sentences the woman and Biju to three years' imprisonment in the first scam-related case. Dancer and actress Shalu Menon and her mother, who were also accused in the case, acquitted.
December 23, 2016: Chandy appears before the commission for cross-examination.
April 2017: Bengaluru court sets aside its earlier ex-parte decree which asked Chandy to pay Rs 1.6 crore with interest to Kuruvila.
September 26, 2017: The commission submits its report before chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
October 8, 2017: Bengaluru Additional City Civil and Sessions Court acquits Oommen Chandy in Kuruvila case.
October 10, 2017: A day before the Vengara by-election, the state government says it will take action, based on solar commission report.
November 9, 2017: Solar commission report, which states lapses on the part of CM's office, tabled in assembly.
May 15, 2018: Kerala High Court expunges all remarks and findings by the commission which probed the solar panel scam based on a letter reportedly written by the main accused alleging sexual harassment against former chief minister Oommen Chandy.
October 19, 2018: The Crime Branch takes cognisance of the complaint and opens a criminal inquiry against Chandy and others.
March 12, 2019: Crime Branch files an FIR against three Congress legislators, Hibi Eden, Adoor Prakash and AP Anil Kumar, charging them with rape and outraging the modesty of the complainant,
2019: The woman who is sentenced in at last six cases and is out on bail, contests against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in Amethi and bags 569 votes. Though she attempts to contest in Wayanad against Rahul, her nomination papers are rejected because of her conviction.
November 5, 2020: Kerala government removes general consent given to CBI investigation following the adverse impact in a few cases.
January 23, 2021: LDF government recommends a CBI probe into the allegations of sexual harassment in solar case. Curiously name of Jose K Mani, former MP who switched to LDF on October 14, 2020, and was mentioned in allegation, is missing.
January 25, 2021: The woman says there is no politics in the case and will stand firm on the charges. She clarifies that she had complaints against 16 and FIR was against just eight. "If the name of former MP Jose K Mani is in the FIR, I will continue the case against him too," she says.