The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has reportedly found scant evidence to charge Congress leader Hibi Eden, MP, with rape in the sex-for-political patronage complaint filed by a one-time woman speculator facing trial in the solar investment fraud case that rocked the Oommen Chandy government in 2014.
By one account, the CBI reported its findings to the special court here last week. The report was yet to emerge in the public domain. If correct, the development could pave the way for a galaxy of Congress leaders, including Mr. Chandy, to evade legal jeopardy.
The CBI had examined the MLA quarters and the Cliff House as part of its investigation. (Mr. Eden was a Congress legislator at the time of the occurrence of the alleged offence.) The victim had claimed that an array of Congress leaders had extorted sexual favours from her in reciprocation for supporting her putative solar farm venture.
Mr. Chandy had appointed a judicial commission to probe the sensational solar case. The CBI’s suit has provenance in a damning observation by the commission. It recommended that the police probe those persons named by the woman as her sexual exploiters.
The commission concluded that demanding and accepting sexual favours for official patronage is equivalent to receiving illegal gratification under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The felony also attracted the relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The Pinarayi government, which came to power in 2016, accepted the commission’s recommendations and ordered a Crime Branch investigation. In the run-up to the Assembly elections in January 2021, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government dropped a political bombshell by referring the case to the CBI.
It issued an extraordinary notification allowing the CBI to probe an array of Congress leaders, including Mr. Chandy, on the charge of rape, financial exploitation, corruption and nepotism.
In August 2021, the CBI registered an FIR naming Mr. Chandy; AICC general secretary K.C. Venugopal; former Ministers Adoor Prakash and A.P. Anil Kumar; Hiby Eden, MP; and BJP vice president A.P. Abdullakutty as respondents in the politically explosive case.
The Congress said the action smacked of political vendetta. The High Court had expunged the commission’s contentious findings against Mr. Chandy. Multiple investigators, including the Crime Branch, had found no merit in the accusations.