No material evidence suggesting his involvement, says Vigilance Court

The Thrissur Vigilance Court, on Thursday, gave a clean chit to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in the 1991-92 palmolein import corruption case.

Pronouncing the verdict on petitions filed by Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Alphons Kannanthanam, Inquiry Commissioner and Vigilance Special Judge V. Bhaskaran said there was no material evidence suggesting the involvement of Mr. Chandy in the controversial deal.

The court accepted the investigation report filed by Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) Superintendent of Police V.N. Sasidharan which had given a clean chit to Mr. Chandy in the deal.

“In the investigation report, nothing could be brought to indicate complicity of any other persons other than those already listed as accused in the case,” the court said.

The judge dismissed the petitions filed by Mr. Achuthanandan and Mr. Kannanthanam saying it was not necessary to hear any one else in the matter at this stage.

Mr. Achuthanandan and Mr. Kannanthanam, in their petitions, had challenged the report of the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau and urged the court to make Mr. Chandy an accused in the case.

The report filed by the Vigilance SP on January 7 stated that the investigation found that Mr. Chandy, the then Finance Minister in the United Democratic Front (UDF) government headed by K. Karunakaran, was not aware of the details of the decision to import palmolein through a Singapore-based firm.

The Vigilance court made it clear that it could invoke discretionary powers under Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure at an appropriate stage if sufficient material was brought out in evidence against any person, including Mr. Chandy.

During the trial, Biju Manohar, counsel for the government, alleged that the petitions filed by Mr. Achuthanandan and Mr. Kannanthanam were politically-motivated. He argued that apart from his signature in the Cabinet note, there was no evidence against Mr. Chandy to prove his involvement in the case.

M.K. Unnikrishnan, counsel for Mr. Kannanthanam, said he would approach the High Court against the verdict of the Vigilance Court. T.B. Hood, counsel for Mr. Achuthanandan, said he would take a decision after studying the court order.

K. Karunakaran was the first accused in the case relating to the import of 15,000 tonnes of palmolein from Malaysia, which allegedly caused a loss of Rs.2.32 crore to the exchequer. Mr. Chandy, the then Finance Minister, was the 23rd witness in the case.

Last year, a Vigilance court in Thiruvananthapuram had ordered an investigation into Mr. Chandy's alleged role.

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