The Kerala High Court on Thursday directed former state Health Minister K.K. Shailaja and 11 others to file their replies before the Lokayukta probing allegations of corruption in buying equipment, including Covid PPE kits, during the Covid pandemic in 2020.
Ironically, K.K. Shailaja is known as Covid ‘shero’ for her impeccable handling of the pandemic.
A division bench of Chief Justice S.Manikumar and Justice Shaji P.Chaly ordered all those named in the petition to file their response within two weeks.
Congress leader Veena Nair, who was a candidate at the 2021 Assembly polls in the state capital city constituency had approached the Lokayukta with a complaint of widespread allegations of corruption which was brought out by the media about purchases made during the Covid in 2020.
PPE kits which ought to have cost around Rs 500 were purchased for Rs 1,500 is the major allegation and the Lokayukta after conducting a preliminary probe has sent notices to Shailaja and 11 others to appear before them on December 8.
It was this order which was challenged by Shailaja and others including state government officials who were responsible for the purchases at the High Court.
But the court after going through their petition ruled that the Lokayukta has the right to go forward with the case and at the time of the preliminary investigation, the court is not going to interfere.
The court also said during the time of a pandemic, none should think anyone can do anything and why is there a fear in the probe. The people should know the truth as the complaint is that the PPE kit was purchased at a high price.
Ever since this controversy surfaced, Shailaja stood her ground and said that the need of the hour then, was to act quickly to save lives and that the purchases were made with the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s approval.
Incidentally, when Vijayan retained power in the April 2021 Assembly polls, the biggest shocker came when even though Vijayan did not retain any of his party ministers from the outgoing government, Shailaja would be there, but when the list of ministers surfaced, her name was missing.
The grapevine in political circles then was Vijayan was unhappy with her over Covid purchases and now with even the High Court asking all to reply to the Lokayukta, will all the bouquets that she got turn into brickbats and that time will only tell.