The government has issued a formal order to withdraw the palmolein case.
The order is a follow-up on the Cabinet decision to move the Special Judge and Enquiry Commissioner, Thrissur, trying the palmolein case, for permission to withdraw the case under Section 321 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
The detailed order, dated September 13, is intended to cancel an order issued by the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government on July 25, 2006, reviving the case, which was earlier sought to be withdrawn by its predecessor United Democratic Front (UDF) government on March 28, 2005. The case, which had rocked the State during the early 1990s, relates to alleged conspiracy in the import of palmolein under the counter trade system/rupee clearance scheme that was in effect at the time.
After a preliminary inquiry, which itself was a follow-up on the Accountant General’s finding in 1994 that the palmolein import had resulted in loss for the State exchequer, the Vigilance wing of the police had registered a case before the Vigilance Court, Thiruvananthapuram.
Among the accused in the case were former Chief Minister the late K. Karunakaran and IAS officers Jiji Thomson and P.J. Thomas. The case was later transferred to the Special Judge and Enquiry Commissioner, Thrissur. The UDF and LDF governments had been taking diametrically opposite positions on continuation of the case. While the LDF government had, in vain, sought permission from the Central government for sanction to prosecute the two IAS officers, the UDF government had overturned that decision and withdrawn the request.
In between, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) had held that no case had been made out against the two officials. The CVC was of the view that the two officials had acted in accordance with a legitimately taken Cabinet decision and that the State government had not suffered any loss on account of the palmolein import.
However, repeated attempts by the officials to extricate themselves from the case had failed. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, a witness in the case, was forced to give up the Vigilance portfolio when the Vigilance judge, Thiruvananthapuram, ordered a Vigilance probe to find whether he too was involved in the case.