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Lotteries case: State Government in a fix

By Our Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, JAN. 10. The Kerala Government has landed itself in an embarrassing situation with the Supreme Court asking the Chief Secretary, Babu Jacob, to present himself before the Court on January 17 to face contempt of court charges in the lotteries case.

The Chief Secretary as well as three senior officials of the Government are in the dock for taking action against online lotteries and paper lotteries operated in the name of Meghalaya and other State Governments. The three officials - Secretary (Taxes), Director General of Police and the Lotteries Director - have been exempted from personal appearance before the Court.

What adds to the embarrassment of the Government is that the Opposition Leader, V. S. Achuthanandan, has sought to implead in an appeal filed by the Meghalaya Government against a Kerala High Court order banning lotteries in the State. While the case is still before the Court, the lottery operators managed to get an order restraining the State Government from implementing the High Court order. It is claimed that the Chief Secretary and other officials did not comply with the order.

The Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy, told presspersons here today that the officials were only obeying the political decision of the Government. "The Government stand on the issue is correct from practical, administrative and legal points of view. It will hire the best of lawyers in Delhi to argue its case before the Supreme Court," he said adding that some of the best lawyers in Delhi had already been hired by the lottery operators.

SociaI problem

The Chief Minister said that the issue was not one of Government revenues alone. The lotteries created a social problem. Many families had been financially ruined because of addiction to lotteries.

Mr. Chandy said that the lottery operators were throwing the rules to winds. Many were Government lotteries just in name. According to the Lotteries (Regulation) Act, only the State Government could run lotteries. The Government courted trouble allegedly because Government pleaders failed to argue the cases properly before the High Court and Supreme Court.

The Opposition Leader had alleged collusion of the State Government in not checking the proliferating and mushrooming lottery business. In his affidavit before the Court, Mr. Achuthanandan contended that the State Government had not brought out the correct facts before the Court and that there were serious allegations that the son of the State Finance Minister, Vakkom Purushothaman, was an agent of the lotteries till October 2004.

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