In a legal and political setback to the Congress-led United Democratic Front government in Kerala, a vigilance court on Friday turned down its move to wind up the palmolein import graft case dating to 1992 when late Congress veteran K Karunakaran was the chief minister.
Opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist welcomed the court order and held that Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had lost the moral ground to remain in office, but Chandy rejected the contention that the government had lost credibility with the outcome in the case.
"After studying the judgement, the next step will be decided. The court, however, has not expressed any lack of faith in the government," Chandy told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.
Dismissing the government's petition, Judge K Haripal of the vigilance court in Thrissur held that withdrawal of the case was against public interest.
The government decided a few months back to withdraw the case, pertaining to alleged corruption and irregularities in the palmolein import deal, holding that it did not cause any loss to the exchequer nor had anyone made unlawful gain.
Hailing the court order, CPI-M veteran and opposition leader V S Achuthanandan said this also marked the victory of prolonged legal battles he had waged for justice in the case.
The CPI-M politbureau member and former home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said if Chandy was "left with some sense of justice, he should resign".
The palmolein scam had cast a shadow on Karunakaran and forced former Central Vigilance Commission P J Thomas to step down from the coveted post as he figured as an accused in the chargesheet in his capacity as civil supplies commissioner in the state at the time of the import of the edible oil.
The government had argued that the allegation of criminal conspiracy or irregularities against the accused were not sustainable.
Image: Kerala CM Oommen Chandy