Sex, lies and solar panels: Malayalam books by political rival, former DGP put Oommen Chandy back in spotlight

The books by C Divakaran and A Hemachandran question the credibility of Justice Sivarajan Commission that probed the multi-crore solar scam.

ByK A Shaji

Published Jun 13, 2023 | 9:00 AM Updated Jun 13, 2023 | 9:00 AM


Five years have passed ever since the Kerala Assembly held a special session to table a probe commission report on 9 November, 2017.

Convened at the behest of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the session had the first look at the Justice G Sivarajan Commission report on the 2013 multi-crore solar panel scam that shook the previous Oommen Chandy-led UDF government.

A special session to table the report was a first in the state Assembly’s history — the remaining 134 enquiry commission reports were presented during regular sessions.

The commission, headed by G Sivarajan, a retired judge of the Kerala High Court, was entrusted with the task of probing the scam.

The report found Chandy, many of his Cabinet colleagues, and a few leaders of the Congress allegedly helping the accused to cheat businesspeople with the promise of installing solar power units on their properties.

The commission also put leaders, including Chandy, under the scanner by endorsing the allegations of sexual abuse raised by one of the accused.

The report, which ran into more than 1,000 pages, became a powerful political tool for the state’s ruling CPI(M) to reap electoral advantage by continuing to show Chandy and his party in a poor light.

The commission summoned 214 witnesses — including Chandy — and went through 812 documents to prepare the 1,073-page report, which helped the CPI(M) to retain power.

The commission found Chandy, some of his party and Cabinet colleagues, and his staff were in constant touch with the accused.

Also read: CBI gives clean chit to Oommen Chandy in sexual abuse case

Credibility under question

Since its submission, the report’s credibility has been a topic of hot debate, and all charges against Chandy and other leaders were declared invalid by the Supreme Court for want of evidence.

After his health deteriorated, Chandy took almost complete retirement from active politics and is now undergoing treatment in Bengaluru.

The political equations in the state have also changed, and the CPI(M) now faces similar allegations — that of the involvement of its leaders — in the infamous 2020 gold smuggling case.

Now, the Sivarajan panel is in the middle of a raging controversy that raises disturbing questions about the standards and accountability of enquiry commissions as a whole.

There were allegations from the beginning that the commission report took the unsubstantiated allegations of corruption and sexual exploitation levelled by one of the prime accused, a woman, against Chandy and his Cabinet colleagues and made them murkier.

Despite making tall claims of initiating criminal proceedings against Chandy and others based on the commission report, Vijayan has been sitting over the recommendations.

Though the scam has become a distant memory for most Keralaites now, the commission and its report turned into a subject of hot debate last week when LDF veteran and former minister C Divakaran, and retired IPS officer  A Hemachandran, penned their memories to raise allegations against the retired judge.

Also read: ‘Hate-spewing’, ‘foul-mouthed’: The curious case of PC George

Senseless report

In his autobiography, Divakaran hinted that Sivarajan was bribed, apparently by his LDF colleagues, to damage Chandy’s reputation.

CPI leader C Divakaran. (Wikimedia Commons)

CPI leader C Divakaran. (Wikimedia Commons)

A Communist known for his integrity and probity in public life, Divakaran wrote in his Malayalam autobiography ‘Kanalvazhikaliloode’ (Through the Embers) that the commission accepted between ₹4-5 crore to prepare the “kana kona” (senseless gibberish) report.

Now, the Congress-led Opposition UDF has demanded an investigation into the revelations by Divakaran, who was at the forefront of the LDF agitations highlighting the solar scam.

Interestingly, Vijayan released the autobiography last week in the presence of a galaxy of ruling front leaders in Kerala.

On that occasion, the chief minister said he was releasing Divakaran’s autobiography as a friend and political colleague, and he would not be liable to respond to all the observations made in the book.

Though Divakaran later claimed that he intended to say that the commission spent almost ₹5 crore from the state exchequer, and there was no bribe transaction, the book still carries the reference.

Divakaran, however, said there is no change in his opinion that the commission hurriedly prepared the report and that it lacked objectivity.

Interestingly, the Chandy-led government constituted the commission to probe the scandal, which posed a huge credibility crisis to his ministry that — till then — claimed integrity and accountability.

Also read: CPI(M) leaders accused of sexual harassment avoid going to court

Sleaze, false promises and solar panels

The scam surfaced in June 2013 after reports said that three members of the staff of the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) were in contact with the accused and her partner, Biju Radhakrishnan, who allegedly cheated many investors of money after promising to provide them with solar panels and stakes in a fictitious firm.

The report said Chandy and his staff members doled out many favours to the woman accused.

It also found that former home minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan and members of the special investigation team (SIT) probing the scam helped Chandy and his staff escape criminal proceedings.

The solar scam made headlines four years ago with the arrest of the woman accused and her partner Radhakrishnan, who allegedly conned business people by flaunting their high-level connections, including Chandy.

The report added that besides Chandy, ministers AP Anil Kumar, Aryadan Mohamed, and Adoor Prakash, as well as party leaders KC Venugopal, Hibi Eden, and  AP Abdullakutty, and Kerala Congress (Mani) leader Jose K Mani sexually exploited the woman, who ran Team Solar.

Despite the observations of the Commission, the CBI, which probed the sexual exploitation allegations, finally absolved Chandy and other Congress leaders.

Now the sensational case is rocking the state; this time, the judicial commission that probed the high-profile case is on the defensive for its conduct rather than the accused.

Reporter’s Take: Political fight after Solar Scam clean chit to Chandy

Digging for spicy details

In his service story, Neethi Evide? (Where is Justice?), former DGP Hemachandran, who led the SIT that probed the scam, also raised allegations against the Sivarajan Commission.

A Hemachandran, former DGP. (File photo/Supplied)

A Hemachandran, former DGP. (File photo/Supplied)

The former officer said Sivarajan was more interested in extracting lewd details about the accused and indulged in “moral policing” during the commission’s procedures.

Hemachandran detailed his experiences while deposing before the Sivarajan Commission in the chapter, Solar Commission – Alpayussaya reported thudarchalanangalum (Solar Commission – A short-lived report and its repercussions).

“The Solar Commission’s terms of reference were the fraud involved and related matters. However, the panel did not investigate the fraudsters behind the scam or their victims. Instead, the Commission spent all its efforts and time on unrelated matters, especially on the personal lives of the accused and their alleged sexual affairs with various people,’ the former DGP wrote.

“From the beginning, the questions posed by the panel to those who appeared before it was an intrusion into their privacy. One officer was even asked whether he had checked the paternity of a child,” he stated.

Moreover, many jokes cracked by the commission during the procedures were cringeworthy. Police officers who appeared before the commission filed a complaint with the state police chief over his actions.

Hemachandran cited an incident where the panel’s advocate travelled to Coimbatore with an accused to recover a CD, believed to have pornographic content.

When the effort turned futile (they couldn’t find the CD), the commission, in its report, blamed the media and the police for the fiasco rather than mentioning that the accused had taken the panel for a ride.

“The Censor Board often deletes pornographic content in a movie. Consider that a three-hour movie is reduced to 30 minutes after censorship. Similar was the case of the solar panel’s report after the high court examined it,” Hemachandran said.

Report of contention

Meanwhile, Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said that he was against appointing Justice Sivarajan as the probe Commission head.

Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, former home minister. (Facebook)

Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, former home minister. (Facebook)

“The decision to appoint the commission was taken at the Cabinet meeting. However, it would not be proper for me to reveal the stand taken by various ministers at the Cabinet, and it will remain a secret,” the former Home Minister said.

“The latest revelations by Hemachandran are true. But, they have come out in the public sphere only after 10 years,” Thiruvanchoor added.

The references to the judicial and police investigation into the solar scam have created a favourable ground for the revival of group fights within the state unit of the Congress.

Senior Congress leader, and a known Chandy loyalist, KC Joseph fired the first salvo by accusing the Congress leadership of not properly taking up the bribery allegation against Justice Sivarajan.

Joseph also put Thiruvanchoor, the home minister at the beginning of the solar case, under the shadow in connection with the arrest of Chandy’s staffer Tenny Joppan.

Countering Joseph, Thiruvanchoor requested not to drag Chandy into controversies.  “Those who have group differences should not drag Oommen Chandy into it. Chandy is an asset to the Congress. I request all not to commit a mistake by dragging Chandy into controversies,” he said.

“When the solar case surfaced, the Congress unitedly threw its weight behind Chandy. There wasn’t any voice of dissent. Leader of Opposition VD Satheesan strongly defended Chandy in the Assembly,” Thiruvanchoor said.

The leader said he had raised concerns about appointing Justice Sivarajan as the commission for investigating the solar case. “I still have the same assessment of Justice Sivarajan.”

“I pointed out that he had been earlier appointed to the SC/ST Commission and given an extension during the period of the LDF government led by VS Achuthanandan. The commission lost its direction during the probe and prepared a political report,” he said.

Thiruvanchoor added that the allegations against him regarding the arrest of Joppan have been proved false with the disclosure of Hemachandran that the then-home minister was unaware of the arrest.

Marketing technique

Kanam Rajendran, the state secretary of the CPI, the second-largest constituent of the ruling front, said that one could not agree with all findings of the solar commission.

Kanam said that several retired IPS officers were writing service stories. “But you cannot consider all their statements true,” he said.

The revelations by fellow CPI leader Divakaran also need not be the truth, Kanam said.

“Divakaran could have made the statements on the Solar Commission to boost the sales of his book,” said Kanam, now widely seen as a close confidant of Vijayan.

KPCC president K Sudhakaran alleged that Vijayan influenced the commission to make adverse remarks against Chandy. Whatever the future course of the controversy, it helped Chandy regain his lost image of a simple and popular leader, though he is no more active in politics.