An anticipatory bail petition has been filed by eight accused in the Kerala Advocates Welfare Fund (KAWF) scam, which involved the misappropriation of over ₹7.5 crores from the fund. (Jeyaprabha R. v. CBI & connected matters)
During today's hearing, Justice K. Babu refused to grant the accused interim protection, and the case was adjourned till Monday. At this moment, the parties have been ordered to present the necessary evidence before the bench for consideration.
Earlier, an investigation by the CBI was ordered by the Apex Court into the scam, weighing the depravity of the offence in two petitions filed by lawyers who practise in courts across the state and are members of the Bar Council.
The fund was formed to give retirement benefits and social security to advocates in Kerala. The source of the fund consists of the amount of money paid by the Bar Council, voluntary donations or contributions made by the Bar Council of India or by any other bar associations as well as includes all amounts by way of sale of stamps under Section 22 of the Kerala Court Fees and Suit Valuation Act, 1959.
The trustee committee shall administer the fund and shall hold the assets belonging to the funds and the trust under Section 9 of the Act. The Trustee Committee's accounts must be audited annually by a chartered accountant appointed by the Bar Council under Section 10 (4) of the Act. The petitioner claims that it has not been done properly for some years.
The Trustee Committee held a meeting in 2019 to discuss allegations of major financial irregularities in the use of funds that were raised in 2017. To follow up on this, the Bar Council of Kerala resolved to ask for a vigilance investigation into possible irregularities or defalcations in printing and distributing welfare fund stamps under its purview. Over the course of ten years, the money was allegedly swindled using fictitious documents.
To that end, the Vigilance Department filed a first-information-report charging violations of Prevention of Corruption Act section 13(2) read with section 13(1)(c)(d) against one Chandran, the trustee fund's former accountant.
Since 2007, there has been no auditing of the funds, according to the findings of the investigation. In the view of the petitioners, a long delay in conducting an audit of the account helped the culprits' ability to defraud and manipulate the funds.
As a result, the petitioners went to the court and requested that the Central Bureau of Investigation be tasked with investigating the case.
According to a press release from the Bar Council of Kerala, the Council does not intend to oppose the High Court's decision to seek a CBI investigation. As a result of this, the CBI has registered a FIR to probe the scam.
There are nine accused, according to the re-registered FIR, namely: MK Chandran, an accountant with KAWFTC, and his eight acquaintances: K Babu Scaria, Sreekala Chandran, Anadaraj, Martin A, Dhanapalan, Rajagopal P, Jeyaprabha R, and Fathima Sherin. Their bank accounts were credited with the funds. Eight of them have submitted an application with the court seeking anticipatory bail.