Vigilance probe ordered into Merchiston land deal

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Thiruvananthapuram, Sep 24 (UNI) The Kerala Government today ordered a vigilance inquiry into the controversial Merchiston land deal involving the sale of Ecologically Fragile Land (EFL) by private parties.

However, the inquiry is unlikely to cover the role of ISRO officials, who negotiated with Merchiston estate owner Savy Mano Mathew to purchase a portion of the estate for setting up the Indian Institute of Space Sciences.

Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan announced the decision after getting a clearance from the CPI, whose nominee, Forest Minister Binoy Viswom is at the centre of the controversy.

The Chief Minister said the inquiry would cover the 2005 land deal involving the sale of the 707-acre estate by Jayashree Tea Plantations to Mr Mathew on the eve of a government decision to hike the stamp duty for registration. It would also look into the role of revenue officials, who gave a report that there was no suitable land in Thiruvananthapuram in government custody for setting up the ISRO institute.

It was after obtaining such a report from the government side that the ISRO purchased 82 acres of land from Mr Mathew. It became controversial after the Opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front demanded the resignation of the Forest Minister on the charge of helping Mr Mathew to sell EFL to the ISRO.


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