Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram which has gold worth over Rs 1 lakh crore is in the news again. The Supreme Court appointed Amicus Curie and former Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramanian has made some startling revelations in his report to the Apex court.
According his report, gold plating machines were found inside the temple leading to suspicion that gold at the temple is systematically being stolen by some 'very influential' people.
The report suggests that some people on the highest echelons of the temple administration may have something to do with it. It also raises serious questions over the manner in which the Travancore royal family is administering the temple.
Report talks about how an auto-driver was found dead in a well near the temple and the acid attack on another person.
The report, (a copy of the report is in the possession of CNN-IBN/IBNLive) says "it appears that there has been large scale breach of moral and fiduciary duties towards Sree Padmanabhaswamy and the temple, and the temple which is a public temple has been treated for all effects and purposes as a private fiefdom".
It also comes down heavily on the auditors accusing them of "failing in performing their ethical and moral duties".
The Amicus Curie has suggested that an independent team comprising people like former CAG Vinod Rai and a Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India must conduct a fresh auditing of the temple.
The century old temple has been the royal family temple of the Travancore kings who ruled southern part of Kerala till it joined
the Union of India after Independence from the British.
The secret vaults in the temple have gold and gold ornaments worth over Rs1 lakh crore. The government is spending over Rs 1 crore on the security of the temple every month.
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple wealth: Achuthanandan says his stand vindicated
Seizing on the report of amicus curiae pointing to "mismanagement" of the famous Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple, CPI-M leader V S Achuthanandan today said it only vindicated his stand that attempts were made to take away its riches to which UDF government turned a blind eye.
In the light of the report submitted to the Supreme Court, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Devaswom Minister V S Sivakumar should explain why the government did not take any step to ensure that the temple and its wealth were managed properly, he said in a statement here.
"When I said that there had been attempts to take away the precious treasures of the temple, the government not only took it lightly but accused me of casting aspersions on the Travancore royal house.
The report submited in the Supreme Court by amicus curiae Goapal Subraniam has vindicated what I had said," the nonagenarian leader said.
When the Kerala High Court directed the government to look into the possibilities of freeing the temple from the control of the royal house, the then LDF government headed by him had declined to challenge that in the apext court.
But further steps in that direction could not be taken as the assembly elections were declared, he said.
However, the UDF government that came to power in 2011 did not challenge the royal house when it approached the Supreme Court against the high court order, he said.
Amicus Curie Report
In a tragic incident, a 60-year-old woman and her grand-daughter were hacked to death at their residence at Alamcode near Attingal on Wednesday.
The deceased were Omana, 60, of Thushara House, Alamcode, and three-and-a-half-year-old Swasthika, daughter of Omana’s son Lijeesh.
The Attingal Police has taken the accused into custody who was identified as Nino Mathew, 40, hailing from Mamam.
Attingal CI M Anil Kumar said Nino, a married man, reportedly had an extra-marital affair with Swathi, his co-worker in a Technopark company and Lijeesh’s wife. Last week, Lijeesh grew suspicious over the affair after he found some SMSes sent by Nino to Swathi. Lijeesh, a KSEB staffer, had a quarrel with his wife following the incident, the police said.
''I have a surprise for you. Please wait till evening,'' reads a message sent by Nino Mathew to his lover Anu Santhi, after calling her before setting out to commit the murders. His target was actually Lijeesh, her husband. However, he killed Omana and Swastika before Lijeesh came home as he wanted to eliminate eyewitnesses, Nino told the police.
Circle inspector M Anil Kumar, who recorded Nino's arrest, said according to statements given by Nino and Anu, who is also in police custody, she was aware that Nino would kill her husband but she never expected him to kill her daughter too. It was about a week ago that Lijeesh found out about their illicit relationship from an SMS Nino sent to Anu. Lijeesh told Anu that she could move out with Nino but he would not let their daughter go with her. Anu informed this to Nino and told him that she was willing to go with him, provided Lijeesh was moved out of her life. ''The accused arrived at Lijeesh's house, 'Thusharam', fully prepared, with the necessary weapons and clothes to change after committing the crime,'' Anil Kumar said.
When he found that Lijeesh was out of home, he called him on his mobile phone. Lijeesh told him that he was at Chathanpara, where his new house was being built, and he would be back in 30 minutes. In the meantime, he went to the kitchen and hit Omana on the back of her head with a golf club, which was cut short to fit inside his bag. He then hacked her twice with a machete . He also hacked the little girl twice on her chest and waited for about 15 minutes for Lijeesh to reach home.
In a bid to portray it as a robbery-murder case, Nino stole the gold chain of Omana and the waist chain of Swastika, which the police recovered from his house at Kulathoor later. The arrest of Anu was recorded late in the night. The circle inspector said the mobile phone of Nino contained video clips of intimate moments between him and Anu.
Neighbours shocked: The deceased Omana's next-door neighbours, Jayan and his family, were at their workplaces when the crime took place. Omana's sister-in-law Thankamany and family, who lived a house away, had gone to Kilimanoor to invite close ones to her elder daughter's wedding in June.
''If we were around, we could have intervened and saved them when we heard the screams,'' said Thankamany, who sat shattered on the footsteps of her house, flanked by her two daughters.
For Jayan, who still thought the crime was the handy work of a robber, it was something hard to believe. ''My daughter works at Kollam Corporation Office and wife at Travancore Devaswom Board's office at Fort in the city. Both of them return very late in the evening, mostly after dark. Till now, they have not complained about any anti-social activity. We felt very safe here,'' he said.
Suraj Venjaramoodu bagged the Best Actor award in the 61st National Film Awards His portrayal of a sweeper in Dr Biju's directorial 'Perariyathavar' won him the fame.It is indeed a proud moment for all Keralites as well as for the whole Malayalam industry. Sura Venjaramoodu, who rose to fame with his comedy roles in movies and with the Trivandrum slang.
The Best Actress Award went to Geetanjali Thapa for her performance in Malayali actor-turned director Geethu Mohandas' film Liar’s Dice.Hindi movie ‘Shahid’, based on the life of murdered human rights lawyer Shahid Azmi, won the best actor award for actor Rajkummar Rao and the best director award for Hansal Mehta in the 61st National Film
Suraj has made it happen. With his outstanding performance in the movie Perariyathavar, he bagged the National Award for the Best Actor for the year. He said that he dedicate this award to all the Malayalis and the Malayalam industry. Earlier, comedian Salim Kumar too bagged the same award for his yet another brilliant performance for the film Aadaminte Makan Abu.
Perariyathavar was directed by Dr Biju and Suraj played the role of a sweeper in the film. It was a de-glam role and it mainly focussed on the difficulties faced by the marginalised people in the society. Indrans had also played a pivotal role in the film. This is Suraj's first National Award. Now, this has proved once again that the Malayalam industry is indeed blessed with having many profound actors who have extreme range in acting. Also, Dr Biju directed movie Perariyathavar wins the National Award for Best Environmental film. Malayali actress and director Geethu Mohandas' husband and cinematographer Rajeev Ravi bags the Best Cinematographer of her directed film Liars Dice. Best Actress Geethanjali Thapa too wins National Award for Best Actress for Liars DHindi movie ‘Shahid’, based on the life of murdered human rights lawyer Shahid Azmi, won the best actor award for actor Rajkummar Rao and the best director award for Hansal Mehta in the 61st National Film Awards ice. Shaji N Karun's Swapaanam too bags a National Award. Oneindia congratulates all the winners of 61st National Awards.
“It is a wonderful feeling. It is a tribute to Shahid Azmi. It is just his karma which has worked for the film and for us. It’s also a tribute to my team who stood by me for three and a half years while making this film,” Mehta said.
Reacting to the news, Rao said: “I am more than happy. It is the most important day of my life. Never expected this to happen. I am thankful to everyone actually Hansal Mehta, Shahid team and the audience. I am overwhelmed.” He shared the Best Actor award with Suraj Venjaramoodu, who was honoured for his performance in Malayalam movie Perariyathavar.
Among the first to congratulate Rao was his Kai Po Che director Abhishek Kapoor. He tweeted: @raj_kumar31 U Giant of an actor. Congrats on the #nationalaward. V proud if u.
Anand Gandhi directed ‘Ship of Theseus’ was named best feature film at the 61st National Film Award. ‘Gulaabi Gang’ won the award for Best Movie on Social Issues. ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ was named Best Popular film.
Best Actor (Female) went to Geetanjali Thapa for ‘Liar’s Dice’. Best Supporting Actor (Female) was shared by Aida Elkashef (Ship of Theseus) and Marathi actress Amruta Subhash for Astu. Saurabh Shukla was declared the best supporting actor for court-room drama ‘Jolly LLB’, which was also named the best Hindi film.
Indira Gandhi Award for best debut film will go to Marathi director Nagraj Manjule for his critically acclaimed ‘Fandry’. Nargis Dutt Award for best feature film on National Integration will be given to Balu Mahendra directed Tamil film ‘Thalaimuraigal’. The awards were announced by an 11-member jury headed by noted directed Saeed Akhtar Mirza.
In the language category, ‘Ajeyo’ was named the best Asamese film, ‘Bakita Byaktigato’ (Bengali), ‘December 1′ (Kannada), ‘Baga Beach’ (Konkani), ‘North 24 Kaadham’ (Malayalam), ‘Aajcha Diwas Majha’ (Marathi), ‘Thanga Meengal’ (Tamil) and ‘Na Bangaaru
Talli’ (Telugu) were other winners. ‘Yellow’ (Marathi) and ‘Na Bangaaru Talli’ were given special mention by the jury. The other language winners were: ‘The Coffin Maker’ (English), ‘RI’ (Khasi), ‘The Crossing Bridges’ (Sherdukpen).
Interestingly, both the original and adapted screenplay awards went to Kannada films. P Sheshadri won the award for his original screenplay in ‘December I’ while Panchakshari won the award for adapting ‘Prakruti’. Best editing went to V J Sabu Joseph for the Tamil sports drama ‘Vallinam’ while best production design was won by ‘Miss Lovely’.
Ordering a CBI probe into alleged land grabbing by chief minister Oommen Chandy's former gunman and aide Salim Raj, the Kerala high court on Friday didn't mince words in holding Chandy accountable for criminal activities of some of his erstwhile personal staff, saying, "the chief minister is answerable to the state".
Noting that members of the chief minister's personal staff are involved in multiple criminal cases, including land grabbing and in cheating scores of people in the Solar Scam, Justice Harun ul-Rashid in his judgment said: "The chief minister's office should be a model institution serving the people of the state.
The above incidents have raised serious questions on the functioning of the chief minister's office."
The court was considering petitions filed by A K Shareefa of Kalamassery and Premchand R Nair of Kadakampally alleging that property worth over Rs 275 crore was seized by Salim Raj and his relatives in connivance with revenue officials.
Justifying the need for a CBI probe, HC held: "Prima facie evidence of the presence of unscrupulous elements among the personal staff in the chief minister's office and the associated criminal activities in these cases call for a thorough and independent investigation into the crime and the associated activities involving personal staff in the chief minister's office."
The court also criticised the chief minister , he is responsible for what happens in his office.
“The Chief Minster should explain to the people what happens in his office. He is responsible for appointing dishonest persons as his staff members,” the court said.
The autopsy of Sunanda Pushkar indicates that she died of drug overdose, most likely a lethal combination of sedatives, some other strong medicines and perhaps alcohol. While the team of AIIMS doctors conducting the post-mortem examination used a bland phrase - "sudden unnatural death" - as the cause of death, Delhi police officers probing the death were more forthcoming in private conversations to state that it was possibly a case of suicide.
However, it is still not known whether the drug overdose was caused by inadvertent recklessness or by a premeditated desire to end life. What's now more of less certain is that Sunanda Pushkar was deeply distressed by her husband, Union minister Shashi Tharoor's friendship with Pakistan journalist Mehr Tarar and had demanded six months ago that he snap all communication with her. Whether this demand was met is uncertain because tweets between Tharoor and Tarar surfaced in public two days before her death.
It's learnt that Tharoor and Sunanda have been fighting in public and there were several witnesses to it. In her interactions with journalists on Wednesday and Thursday, Sunanda appeared stressed and often less than charitable towards her husband. She said several things to TOI but later called to retract her statements, indicating yet again the disturbed state of her mind.
Journalist Nalini Singh, who had spoken to Sunanda the night before her death, confirmed to TOI that Tharoor's friendship with
Tarar was causing her deep distress. "She was distraught," said Singh. "The Tarar thing had overpowered her. She was planning something - 'I won't take this lying down,' she said." Singh added there was something more she knew which she wouldn't share with the media. "I have written to the Police Commissioner and the DCP asking them that they can record her statement if they want," she said.
On the India Today website Singh is quoted as saying that Sunanda's illness was also disturbing her. "She was under the impression that she was very ill. She told me that she had been diagnosed with stomach TB. It was late at night and maybe she said it would be cancer now...She was under the impression that she was not well at all. That would definitely play on her mind," Singh is quoted as saying.
On Saturday, Sunanda's post-mortem was conducted by a team of experienced doctors headed by Dr Sudhir Gupta. Dr Gupta told TOI: "Preliminary investigations are suggestive of drug overdose." Samples of the viscera - internal organs of the body, for example, heart, liver and intestines - have been taken to check toxicity caused by drug overdose. "We will conclude our opinion within a couple of days, subject to the outcome of toxicology reports."
Dr Gupta said there were physical injuries on certain parts of Sunanda's body, although these were unlikely to have caused her death. Sources said the police have found strips of medicines including sedatives (Alprax) from Pushkar's hotel room, giving credence to the theory of death due to drug overdose. "Alprax is a sedative prescribed mainly to patients suffering from anxiety problem, sleep disorder or depression. However, if taken in extremely high dosage it can affect the functioning of the heart leading to even death," said a drug expert, who did not want to be identified. He said that consuming such high dosage cannot be accidental. "It is mostly suicidal," he said.
Initial examination of Sunanda's body - examination of the body condition, rigor mortis - has revealed death took place around 4-7 pm. "The body arrived at the institute at around 2 am ," said Dr Amit Gupta, the AIIMS spokesperson. He said that since it was a medico-legal case being overseen by a judicial magistrate, doctors had to wait for the inquest orders before conducting the autopsy.
"After inquest orders were received, institute director Dr M C Misra formed a medical board to conduct the procedure. Consent was given by Pushkar's husband Shashi Tharoor and her son Shiv Menon," Gupta said. The post-mortem was filmed and all injuries marks were photographed to ensure that every single detail is preserved. "The samples will be examined at the hospital lab and parts of it will be sent to the Forensic Sciences Laboratory for detailed examination. The report should be out by Monday," said an AIIMS official.
"You should rest assure that there will be no partiality. We will share the laboratory results as and when we get it," said Dr Gupta, the head of the forensic sciences department. The body of Pushkar was handed over to Tharoor, who was present while the post-mortem was being conducted despite his illness, at around 2 pm. After that the body was taken by Tharoor for the last rites.
The case involved an alleged corruption of about Rs 374 crore for the maintenance and modernisation of Panniyar, Chengulam and Pallivasal hydroelectric projects in Kerala
Allowing a petition filed by Pinarayi Vijayan, secretary of the state unit of the CPI (M) and former power minister, a CBI special court today exempted him from the list of offenders in the controversial SNC Lavalin corruption case.
The special court also exempted six senior former government and Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) officials from the list. Rejecting the charge sheet filed by the CBI, the special court judge, R Raju, said the CBI had failed to establish a criminal conspiracy case against Vijayan and others in the case.
The court found the allegations levelled against Vijayan and others in the charge sheet filed by the CBI as baseless. As per the order of the court, the case is likely to be closed as the others accused in the case, SNC Lavalin Company and its senior vice president Claus Trendel, have not yet been questioned by the CBI.
The case involved an alleged corruption of about Rs 374 crore for the maintenance and modernisation of Panniyar, Chengulam and Pallivasal hydroelectric projects in Kerala. The agreement between the company and the Kerala government was cleared while Vijayan was the state's minister for power.
In his petition, Vijayan claimed it was nowhere mentioned in the charge sheet that he made financial gains from the scam and added it was registered only for political gain.
However, the CBI accused Vijayan of according the status of a distributor to SNC Lavalin after he became the power minister in 1997. Prior to this, the company was only a consultant. The CBI alleged, before vetting the agreement, the minister had made a trip to Canada to clinch a deal with the company unaccompanied by technical experts, who could advice him.
Further, the minister had made his decision without the approval from the KSEB or the Cabinet. He also chose to keep away important details of the deal from the state Cabinet and did not take interest to ensure the grant (Rs 90 crore),promised by SNC Lavalin to the Malabar Cancer Centre was realised on time. He also nominated his personal staff member, Sasidharan Nair, as special officer of the Cancer Centre to safeguard his interests, the CBI alleged. The CBI, however, did not allege Vijayan had made any personal gain through the deal.
HISTORY OF SNC LAVALIN SCANDAL
In 1992, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) of India rejected a proposal of Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) to renovate the three hydro-electric power projects at Pallivasal, Sengulam and Panniar instead the CEA recommended a capacity upgradation of the generators in these three power projects, after they found that these projects are in good condition. KSEB disregarded this recommendation and went forward with the decision to renovate these projects.
The initial negotiations with the Canadian company SNC-Lavalin - a company which had been present in the state's power sector for several decades - began during the tenure of United Democratic Front government, under the leadership of the then power minister C.V. Padmarajan and later, the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with SNC-Lavalin on 10 August 1995, when G. Karthikeyan of the Congress Party was the power minister, after the resignation of C.V. Padmarajan. Under the provisions of the MoU, the funds for the renovation were to be arranged by SNC Lavalin from the Export Development Canada (EDC), Canada, and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Later, it was also found out in a probe by CBI, that G. Karthikeyan also wanted a quid-pro-quo assistance from the Canadian government for the setting up a hospital for granting a project for refurbishment of Pallivasal, Shengulam and Panniyar Hydro electric stations in Kerala, after the revelation of a letter by G Karthikeyan to the then vice-president of Lavalin business operations, Klaus Triendl, who is also an accused in the Lavalin scandal. It was only in September 1995, that the KSEB undertook a feasibility study on the proposal, by a retired Chief Engineer of the KSEB, who later became a consultant to SNC-Lavalin.
Based on the consultant's report and further discussions, the KSEB under the leadership of G. Karthikeyan, signed the contracts
with SNC-Lavalin to provide technical services for management, engineering, procurement and construction supervision on 24 February 1996, to ensure completion of the projects within three years. The consultancy agreement did actually include the rates for various equipments to be purchased as part of the project. Consultancy agreements were converted into fixed price contracts for the supply of machinery and technical services as part of the renovation at a cost of 67.94 million Canadian dollars (Rs 169.03 crores). The final follow-up agreement with SNC-Lavalin regarding the renovation of PSP project was signed by Pinarayi Vijayan of Left Democratic Front - after they took office winning the majority in legislative assembly in 1996 - in February 1997. Technically, the Left Democratic Front (Kerala) led government could not retreat from the agreements, even if they wanted to, according to the provisions of the MoU which was already signed by their predecessors,
that is the ministers of United Democratic Front government.
After the final contract was signed, the KSEB entrusted the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation Limited (NHEPCL) a study to justify the prices quoted by Lavalin, and they concluded in that study that in view of the grant to the proposed Malabar Cancer Centre (MCC), the purchase of Canadian equipment and accessories could be considered favorably.
The CAG found that Lavalin was only a consultant intermediary and not the original equipment manufacturer and that the supply of goods and services was made by other firms at a much higher cost leading to excess expenditure. According to the CAG, the absence of due professional care in negotiating the foreign loan proved to be detrimental to the financial interests of the Board. The Board also could not ensure the quality of renovation work in the absence of technology transfer and training of its engineers. Owing to various technical defects in the equipment, the generation of power could not be maintained even at the pre-renovation level and the Board had to spend on repairs.
According to the CAG, failure to exclude the fee for technical consultancy from fixed price contracts resulted in an avoidable payment of Rs 20.31 crores, and failure to negotiate and exclude the exposure fee from the loan agreement resulted in avoidable payment of Rs 9.48 crores and future liability of Rs 2.21 crores. In the opinion of the CAG, there was also an avoidable payment of Rs 1.20 crores as commitment fee despite there being committed but unavailed advance.
The CAG found that the Government did not receive Rs 89.32 crores out of the grant of Rs 98.30 crores that was promised for the Malabar Cancer Centre as the MoU was not renewed in time during the tenure of United Democratic Front when Kadavoor Sivadasan was the minister in charge of powe
India will take its next major step forward in the space programme, after the successful launch of Chandrayaan-1 in 2008, when scientists of Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) launch their maiden mission to Mars on Tuesday, at 2:38pm from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.PSLV-C25, the 25th mission of PSLV and fifth in the XL configuration, will carry the 1,337 kg Mars Orbiter Satellite into a 250 km X 23,500 km elliptical orbit. The cost of the mission is Rs. 450 crore.
The formal countdown for India's maiden mission to Mars began at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh at 6:08 am today.
With the launch of Mangalyaan set at 2:38 pm on November 5 by the Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO, the countdown will last for nearly 56 hours.
During the countdown, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) - a giant 45-metre rocket - will be fuelled and its health checked. The PSLV carrying Mangalyaan will blast off from Sriharikota, which is about 80 kilometres from Chennai.
The launch of Mangalyaan, which was scheduled for October 28 initially, was postponed due to bad weather in the Pacific Ocean. Two Indian ships, SCI Yamuna and Nalanda, which will monitor the health of the rocket and satellite as it sails over the ocean after being launched from India, had been delayed due to bad weather.
In case the weather does not permit launch on November 5, the launch window is open till Novemmber 19. It is of critical importance that the Mangalyaan begins its over 200 million kilometre journey on its trans-Martian orbit latest by November 30 - any further delay could prove disastrous for the mission.
This will be the first ever launch that ISRO will conduct in November at India's space port, which is usually dogged by recurring cyclones at this time of the year.
The Mangalyaan mission will cost Rs. 450 crores and will study the Martian atmosphere.
The coasting phase between the third stage (PS3) burn-out and the fourth-stage (PS4) ignition is longer for this mission. The total flight duration before the Orbiter is injected is nearly 40 minutes. This is longer than the average time of 20 minutes for earlier spacecrafts.
“There are several technological and scientific challenges in this mission. This is India’s first interplanetary mission. We had to calibrate our hardware to withstand a territory not experienced before,” Isro chairman Dr K Radhakrishnan said.
The spacecraft will move from the Earth’s sphere of influence and go to the heliocentric (sun-centric) orbit on December 1, 2013 at 12:42pm. It will remain in the trans-Martian orbit for nearly 300 days before finally entering the Mars orbit on September 24, 2014. It will then have to be re-oriented and slowed down to enter the Martian orbit or else it will vanish.
The Orbiter has five indigenously-designed payloads to carry different scientific experiments once it reaches the Martian atmosphere. The Methane Sensor is specifically designed to measure methane and map its sources on Mars.
Kerala's iconic Marxist and former Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan turned 90 on Sunday.
A leader whose life has been a relentless struggle not only against injustices and indignities of a class and caste riven society, but also "revisionist" trends in his own movement, his 90th birthday was devoid of any colourful celebrations.
But this time round, under gentle persuasion from and close aides and well wishers, the Communist Party of India-Marxist stalwart agreed to cut a birthday cake before joining lunch with his wife Vasumathi and other family members at his official residence Cantonment House in Thiruvananthapuram.
"As in the past, I will continue my struggle against corruption and anti-people policies...", Achuthanandan said in a brief birthday message and went on to blast the United Democratic Front government headed by Ommen Chandy over the solar scam.
A founder leader of CPI-M after the split in undivided CPI in 1964, he is no stranger to controversies.
He was in the news even on the eve of his 90th birthday for critical comments against the party's state leadership controlled by his bete noire Pinarayi Vijayan. The central party has openly voiced its displeasure at the damning comments he made against the state leadership.
Velikkakath Sankaran Achuthanandan was born on October 20, 1923 in a working class family at Punnapra in Alappuzha district.
Compelled to end formal education at the primary stage, he was soon attracted to the fledgling trade union movement in Alapuzha, a bustling commercial town in the early decades of last century.
His life since then has been inseparably linked with the history of the Communist movement in the state through all its vital moments like the Punnapra-Vayalar uprising, nationwide ban on the party following the 'Calcutta thesis", split in the movement, arrest of CPI-M leaders during the India-China war and the internal emergency and faction feuds in the party.
An astute campaigner and shrewd strategist, Achuthanandan has played a vital role along with late E M S Namboodiripad, A K Gopalan and E K Nayanar in building the CPI-M as the biggest Communist group in the state after the 1964 split.
He became a CPI-M politbureau member in 1996 but was dropped from the top organisational body a few years back for speaking against the party's official line on a corruption case involving Pinarayi Vijayan.
Achuthanandan headed the LDF ministry in 2006-11, defeating designs by his rivals in the party to sideline him.
Though he has lost much of his hold in the organisation, he continues to be the most popular Left leader in the state, acceptable to even large sections who are not directly part of the CPI-M.
Instead of narrowly confining to party politics, in recent times he has taken up larger human concerns like threat to the environment and women's rights.
Dubbed by critics as a doctrinaire Marxist in the past, Achuthanandan has also in the last several years tapped the potential of legal processes in his fight against corruption.
The decades-long demand for setting up a High Court Bench in Thiruvananthapuram is once again in focus with the HC constituting a committee comprising five senior-most judges to conduct a feasibility study for the same.
As per the order issued by Kerala High Court Chief Justice Manjula Chellur, a committee headed by Justice K M Joseph and comprising Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan, Justice K T Sankaran, Justice S Siri Jagan and Justice T R Ramchandran Nair will consider the request to set up a High Court Bench in Thiruvananthapuram.
According to highly-placed sources, the panel will examine all aspects relating to the matter and hear the pleas of the Advocates' associations.
Welcoming the decision, Union Minister Shashi Tharoor said it was unusual for a state capital not to have a High Court Bench. Given the large number of cases in which the state is a litigant, the government spends close to `3 crore a year in TA/DA for sending officials to depose in Kochi, leaving their work in Thiruvananthapuram unattended. "In other words, it leads to waste and inefficiency. A Bench in the capital would prove beneficial for the people of the southern districts of the state," Tharoor told 'Express'.
Tharoor said he had taken several steps since 2009, including speaking to three successive Chief Justices of Kerala and four successive Union Law Ministers. He had also introduced a Private Member's Bill to push the issue before Parliament. "But nothing can be done without the state judiciary coming on board," he noted.
"The Central Government has been sympathetic but feels that a final decision requires the concurrence of the Chief Justice of Kerala. When Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and I met Union Minister Kapil Sibal on October 4, he promised to press the Chief Justice for a decision that has been long delayed," he said.
When asked what are the difficulties in implementing the proposal he said, "there seem to be several issues, since the problem is as old as I am! But I would prefer not to ascribe motives to those who have so far opposed this proposal."
Thiruvananthapuram Bar Association president and High Court Bench Action Council chairman K P Jayachandran also appreciated the HC decision.
"Thiruvananthapuram had been the seat of the erstwhile Travancore High Court, but after the re-organisation of the states, it was shifted to Ernakulam. So we are demanding reconstitution of the Bench," Jayachandran said.
However, Kerala High Court Advocates' Association president Babu Paul said they will strongly object any move regarding the constitution of an HC bench. "We will submit our grievances before the committee when we there is an opportunity. A bench in the state capital will not serve any purpose," Paul said.