Thiruvananthapuram: The Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala on Tuesday suffered a setback when a forensic report submitted in a local court here ruled out short circuit as the cause of a fire at the General Administration Department in the state Secretariat on August 25 evening.
The Kerala government had ordered two probes — one by a special committee and another by police. Both had blamed a short circuit in a ceiling fan in GAD’s Political Section room for the fire and ruled out foul play.
But the forensic probe report revealed that after examining 24 items in the room where the fire broke out, it was concluded that the blaze broke out not due to short circuit.
The report submitted in the court pointed out that a sanitiser bottle kept in the room was not damaged in the fire, adding that forensic probe would continue.
The fire broke out in the GAD, a stone’s throw from the CMO, where secret files were kept. All files pertaining to foreign travel and political clearances are kept in this department.
Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala had alleged that the fire was a part of a larger conspiracy hatched at Vijayan’s behest to destroy crucial evidence related to the gold smuggling case. The Leader of the Opposition had even met Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and sought a detailed probe.
State BJP President K Surendran, the media, and Congress legislators had arrived at the Secretariat after hearing of the fire but were not allowed to enter. They were eventually allowed in after an outcry.
Surendran and others were taken into custody after they protested but let off later.
Chief Secretary Vishwas Mehta had arrived at the spot soon after the fire broke out and allegedly asked security officials to not let in anyone.
Later, the Vijayan government decided to take action against the media for allegedly spreading ‘canards’ on the matter, both legal and also by approaching the Press Council of India.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Surendran said that the cat was out of the bag and things were very clear now that what they had been saying all along had come true.
“The fire was lit to destroy evidence. Vijayan is responsible and cannot wash his hands from the issue,” the BJP leader said.
Congress legislator KS Sabarinathan said that the government’s claims had fallen flat and that the truth had surfaced.
The gold smuggling case was unearthed when PS Sarith, a former employee of the UAE Consulate here, was arrested by the Customs on July 5 when he was allegedly facilitating smuggling of 30 kg gold in diplomatic baggage to Thiruvananthapuram from Dubai.
Things turned murkier when the names of Swapna Suresh, a former Consulate staff but later employed with the IT Department, and since-suspended senior IAS officer M Sivasankar, who was CM’s then Principal Secretary, cropped up in the case.