January 2021
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Kerala News
Suspended IAS officer Sivasankar feigned illness: Customs tells HC
Kochi: The Customs probing the gold smuggling case on Tuesday alleged in the Kerala High Court that suspended IAS officer M Sivasankar feigned illness and got hospitalised to avoid answering questions by the agency. The Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate made the submission in a statement opposing the anticipatory bail application of Sivasankar, a day after the high court restrained it from arresting him till October 23. The court had directed the agency to file by October 23 its counter on the anticipatory bail plea by Sivasankar, former principal secretary to chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Sivasankar was admitted to a hospital in Thiruvananthapuram on October 16 after he complained of uneasiness when Customs officials arrived at his home and served notice seeking his appearance before them the same day. He was discharged on Monday and the private hospital where he was admitted had said his angiogram was normal and ruled out a stroke, but added the MRI of the spine revealed multiple disc prolapse in the lumbar and cervical region. The Customs in its statement in the court said it would appear that probably realising that he was involved in an economic offence injuring the interest of the state, he had executed a ''vakalath'' on October 14 even before he left Kochi anticipating arrest.

However, he did not mention the place where he affixed his signature, which shows that he had made all arrangements to pretend illness, get himself admitted in a hospital where his wife works and to avoid answering questions from the agency, it charged. "The pretended illness turned out to be fake in view of the medical opinion given that the pain killers will take care of the back pain complained of. Yet it is surprising he accuses the customs of choosing Friday evening. "A person who is clearly avoiding the reach of the law and had made all preparation to defeat even the questioning is not entitled to approach this Honble Court," the Customs said.

It wanted the court to reject the plea filed by Sivasankar, referring to a high court order that a person served notice under Section 108 of the Customs Act cannot move an application for anticipatory bail. The Customs contended that the bail application was not maintainable in law at all, particularly under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. It was mandatory under the section that a person seeking relief should satisfy that he was charged with non-bailable offences and that he apprehends arrest. "Both these statements are significantly and singularly absent in the application", the Customs said opposing the anticipatory bail plea.

It is not anywhere stated in the application that the petitioner has been charged with any non-bailable offences. This cannot be left to matter of inference but has to be stated specifically. In the absence of it, Section 438 of CrPC will not be attracted and the application was not sustainable, the agency contended. In his petition, Sivasankar has submitted that Customs officials took him along with them and as chest pain developed and at the instance of the officers, they rushed him to a nearby hospital in their car. The IAS officer said he was totally exhausted due to the constant and continued travel from Thiruvananthapuram to Kochi to attend the questioning of the agency on various days.

Sivasankar said he was questioned by different agencies for more than 90 hours and even after prolonged questioning, none of the investigating agencies implicated him as an accused in the gold smuggling case. He has also submitted that he apprehends that the Customs will manage to register new crimes without any basis and get him remanded to custody "to satisfy political wisdom as well as other vested interests." Besides Customs, the Enforcement Directorate and the National Investigation Agency are also probing smuggling of gold worth over Rs 100 crore through diplomatic baggage addressed to the UAE Consulate at Thiruvananthapuram since November last year.

The racket came to light when the Customs seized 30 kg of 24 carat gold worth Rs 14.82 crore at Thiruvananthapuram airport on July 5 this year. Sivasankar was suspended after his links with prime accused in the smuggling racket Swapna Suresh surfaced.

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