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Kerala CM in the dock again over palmolein case

Last updated on: August 8, 2011 15:52 IST

Kerala CM in the dock again over palmolein case

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In a setback to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, a  vigilance court in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday ordered a probe to ascertain if he had any role in the 1992 palmolein oil import deal as the then finance minister in the K Karunakaran government.

Passing the order, Special Vigilance Judge S Jagadeesh, rejected the report filed by investigators in April last stating there was no need for further probe to add any more person to the list of the accused. The judge asked the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau to submit the probe report within three months.

Leaders of Congress and the ruling United Democratic Front constituents in Kerala ruled out resignation of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in the wake of a vigilance court ordering a probe into his role in the 1992 palmolein oil import case.

Reacting to the order, Chandy said he had conveyed his stand on the development to the party high command.
"When my name came up earlier in connection with the case, I had conveyed my stand to the party high command. I have apprised the party central leadership of my views on Monday's development also," said Chandy, who began his second stint as Chief Minister in May.

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Image: Kerala CM Oommen Chandy

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The long-pending corruption case had cost P J Thomas the post of Chief Vigilance Commissioner. Thomas, was listed as the sixth accused in the case relating to import of 32,000 tonnes of palmolein from Malyasia causing loss to the tune of Rs 2.32 crore to the excehquer.

Thomas, whose appointment as CVC was quashed by the Supreme Court, was the food secretary then and a director of the state Civil Supplies Corporation. Late Congress leader Karunakaran was the first accused in the case.

The case had taken a politically significant turn in March this year on the eve of the assembly polls with former Food Minister and Congress leader T H Musthaffa mentioning Chandy's name in his discharge plea.

Mustaffa, also from the Congress, had pleaded that justice given to Chandy by not making him an accused in the case should be given to him (Mustaffa) also.

As soon as the court order came, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala, other party leaders and Kerala Congress-M leader and Law minister K M Mani discussed the development. Chennithala and Mani told reporters that there was no need for Chandy to quit, as he had not been charged with any offence.

The leaders are also expected to discuss the legal fallout of the order with advocate general and senior lawyers. Reacting to the court order, Communist Party of India-Marxist veteran and Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan on Monday demanded Chandy's resignation. "He has no option other than resigning," he said.

 


Image: P J Thomas

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Seizing on the development instantly, the previous Communist Party of India-Marxist led-Left Democratic Front government filed a petition seeking further investigation in the case stating more persons were likely to become accused.

The vigilance investigators, however, later filed a report stating there was no evidence to include Chandy or any others in the list of the accused.

Significantly, that report was filed in the court a few days before Chandy was sworn in as chief minister. The sudden cropping up of his name during the election time had caused deep embarrassment to Chandy, who was the front runner for the chief minister's post.

He had then taken the position that he would face the case "legally and morally". Central Congress leaders also threw their weight behind Chandy, discounting the chances of considering any other leader for the post of chief minister.


Image: Chandy addressing a campaign rally before the state elections

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