The Kerala High Court on Friday set aside the observations made by the Thiruvananthapuram Vigilance court on the role of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in the palmolein import corruption case.
Mr. Chandy was Minister for Finance when the import deal was struck in 1991.
The Vigilance court, while ordering further investigation into the role of Mr. Chandy in the case, had observed that the then Finance Minister was agreeable to the Cabinet decision to import palmolein without inviting tenders. The court had also observed that he was aware that the service fee of 15 per cent for the import was not negotiated. The Vigilance court had further observed that the report submitted after conducting a further probe did not speak of the involvement of Mr. Chandy despite the statements of witnesses in the case.
Justice K.T. Sankaran was of the view that on account of the facts and circumstances of the case, it was necessary to set aside the observations.
The court, while expunging the observations, directed the Superintendent of Police, Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB), Special Cell, Thiruvananthapuram, to complete the further investigation and submit the report before the Vigilance court, Thrissur, within six weeks. The court directed the Vigilance court, Thrissur, to expedite the proceedings after the filing of the final report and to dispose of the petitions filed by the accused seeking to discharge them from the case.
The judge passed the directives while disposing of a writ petition filed by Jiji Thomson, former Director of the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation and an accused in the palmolein case, challenging the order of the Thiruvananthapuram Vigilance court directing the Vigilance to probe the role of Mr. Chandy.
In his petition, Mr. Thomson, who holds the post of Special Director-General, Commonwealth Games, said the Vigilance had earlier conducted a further investigation in the case after the court granted permission to the investigation agency in March 2011. In its report submitted to the court on May 13, 2011, the Vigilance had said that there was no material to implicate any other person in the case. However, the Vigilance court judge rejected the report and ordered a further investigation into the role of Mr. Chandy in the case. The attempt of the investigation agency was only to protract the case. He had been living through the ordeal of the case for the last 14 years. His career had been affected because of the pendency of the case.
The State government took the stand that it did not have any objection to the Vigilance going ahead with the further investigation. The further investigation could be completed in six weeks, the government submitted. In view of the government stance, impleading petitioners, including Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan, were agreeable to the suggestion that the petition could be disposed of directing the Vigilance to complete the probe and also to the Vigilance court to expedite the proceedings. Therefore, the court dismissed all the impleading petitions.