CBI questions Eden in alleged sex-for-favour accusation
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has reportedly questioned Congress leader Hiby Eden, MP, as part of its probe into a sex-for-patronage scandal during the tenure of the previous Oommen Chandy government.
By one account, the CBI interrogated the MP in a Central government facility in Ernakulam.
The investigation has arguably come at an inopportune moment for the Congress, which is locked in a tight electoral fight with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] in the byelection for the Thrikkakara Assembly constituency.
Besides, Mr. Eden's examination indicates that the CBI would move to question other Congress leaders named as accused in the sensational case, thereby generating adverse publicity for the Opposition in the run-up to the pivotal bypoll.
The respondents include Mr. Chandy; (AICC) general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal; former Ministers Adoor Prakash and A.P. Anil Kumar; Hiby Eden, MP; Abdullah Kutty, currently a top Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) functionary.
Congress fears that the CBI case could perhaps accord a propaganda advantage to the CPI(M) at the hustings. The investigation could prove a distraction from the electoral priorities of the Opposition, including the anti-Silverline (K-Rail) campaign.
The complainant is a woman speculator accused of spearheading a solar energy investment racket that caused sizeable financial loss to scores of persons who sunk money into the "dubious" venture, believing that it had government backing.
She had alleged that a galaxy of Congress leaders had extorted sexual favours from her, promising State support for her enterprise. The case has provenance in a damning observation by the judicial commission appointed by Mr. Chandy to probe the scandal.
The commission had recommended that the police probe those persons named by the woman as her sexual exploiters. The Pinarayi government, which came to power in 2016, accepted the commission's recommendations and ordered an investigation.
In the run-up to the Assembly elections in January 2021, the government dropped a political bombshell by referring the case to the CBI. Mr. Chandy had claimed the case had no legal or factual merit. It smacked of political vendetta. The High Court had expunged the commission's findings, and multiple investigators had found no merit in the accusations.