Proceedings before Vigilance court in palmolein import case

The Kerala High Court on Friday dismissed a writ petition filed by P.J. Thomas, former Central Vigilance Commissioner, seeking to quash the proceedings pending before the Thrissur Vigilance court against him in the palmolein import case.

The petition was dismissed by Justice S.S. Satheesachandran.

The case related to the alleged irregularities in the import of 15,000 tonnes of palmolein from Malaysia causing a loss of Rs 2.32 crore to the exchequer during 1991-92. The then Chief Minister K. Karunakaran was the first accused in the case. The other accused are former Food Minister T.H. Mustafa, former Chief Secretary S. Padmakumar, former Additional Chief Secretary Zachariah Mathew, former Director of the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation Jiji Thomson, former Director of P&E Pvt. Ltd V. Sadasivan, Director of P& E Pvt. Ltd Sivaramakrishnan.

His contention

The petitioner, who was then Secretary, Food and Civil Supplies, contended that when the crime was registered, he was not listed as an accused. However, when the final report was filed, he was implicated as a co-accused on false and baseless allegations. According to him, the crime was registered 21 years ago and the government had later taken a decision to withdraw the case though this decision was later reviewed and the investigation continued. He contended that once a decision to withdraw the prosecution was taken, it could not be reviewed later. Therefore, the entire proceedings against the petitioner had been vitiated. Besides, he could not be proceeded against as it was time-barred as per Section 468 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Dismissing the petition, the court said that it did not find any merit in any of the challenges raised by the petitioner. The court noted that sanction had been accorded for moving the Vigilance court after taking cognizance of the offences on the basis of a report filed by the police. The court observed that when it had already taken cognizance of the offence, the fact that the government had taken a decision to move the court for withdrawal could not come to “the assistance of the petitioner to quash the criminal proceedings against him.” It was for the court in which the case was pending to decide the issue. The court said the contention that the case which had been pending for several years was barred by limitation had no basis or merit. The petitioner could raise his defence, including the plea of discharging him from the case, before the Vigilance court.

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