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LIFE Mission did not receive foreign contribution, says Kerala HC in housing scam case

ANI | Updated: Oct 13, 2020 23:37 IST

Kochi (Kerala) [India], October 13 (ANI): A Kerala High Court bench, led by Justice VG Arun, while staying all proceedings against LIFE Mission Project in connection with a housing scam case, stated that LIFE Mission has not received any foreign contribution directly from the sponsor.

The bench said: “Undisputedly, LIFE Mission has not received any foreign contribution directly from the sponsor. The amounts received by Unitac and Sane Ventures in term of the agreements executed by them with the foreign sources are exempted from the definition of "foreign contribution" by virtue of Explanation 3 of Section 2(h) of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), being amounts received in lieu of goods or services rendered in the ordinary course of business.”

The Court argued that LIFE Mission or the builders did not fall under any of the categories under Section 3 (1), which speaks of the entities prohibited from receiving foreign contribution.

It also said that it needed to consider whether the revelations made by Santosh Eappen in the writ petition regarding the payment of kickbacks and other facilitation charges to personnel from UAE Consulate and other persons would constitute an office.

The bench also referred to Section 3 (2) (b) of the FCRA, noting that the Section does not use the term ‘foreign contribution’, instead of using the term ‘currency, whether foreign or Indian’.

“The persons to whom the currency was delivered by the builders having accepted it on the assurance that it will be utilised for getting the requisite clearances and permits, the builders have to be attributed with the knowledge of the possibility of such currency, or at least a portion of it, being delivered to public servants or government employees. As such, registration of crime against Santhosh Eappen warrants no interference at this stage,” said the bench.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had filed an FIR against LIFE Mission, alleging violations of FCRA, over the receipt of a foreign contribution from UAE for the construction of housing victims for flood victims at a government plot in Thrissur district, Kerala.

The bench had also considered a petition filed by Santhosh Eappen, MD, Unitac Ltd, which was labelled as the first accused in the FIR filed by CBI.

Senior Supreme Court lawyer KV Viswanathan, who appeared for the Kerala government during an earlier hearing, had sought to quash the FIR registered by the CBI saying that the state government had no role in the agreement between Red Crescent and the two construction companies - Unitac and Sane Ventures.

The case pertains to spending the foreign fund against the purpose for which it was aimed. Congress MLA Anil Akkara had filed a complaint to the CBI alleging that various middlemen including state representatives and government officials received Rs 4.5 crores as commission. (ANI)