Opposition Leader V S Achuthanandan on Saturday alleged that the Oommen Chandy Government was trying to sabotage the decades-old Palmolein case by resorting to threats and false propaganda against the judiciary.

Addressing a press conference here, Mr. Achuthanandan said that Vigilance judge P K Haneefa had withdrawn from hearing the Palmolein case in this context. He alleged that Chief Whip P C George was running a vilification campaign against the judiciary under the direction of the Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who headed the judicial administration department.

“The Chief Minister was overtly giving leadership to the threats and vilification campaign. He stopped the prosecution proceedings against an IAS official (Jiji Thomson), one of the accused in the Palmolein case. As a return of favour, the IAS official had filed an appeal in the High Court challenging the verdict of the Vigilance Judge who had ordered a re-investigation into the Palmolein case (with reference to Mr. Chandy’s role as Finance Minister when the deal took place). The Chief Minister, who constantly maintained that he would not go in appeal against the vigilance court’s verdict, is using others to file an appeal. A High Court judge has rescued himself from hearing the IAS official’s petition. This clearly attests to the threats and false propaganda of those in power,” he said, reading out from a prepared statement.

Mr. Achuthanandan alleged that the Vigilance Director General Desmond Netto was first used in the attempt to sabotage the Palmolein case. The original report (related to Mr. Chandy’s involvement in the Palmolein case was changed by Netto at the behest of the Chief Minister and a fresh report was submitted to the vigilance court.

Mr. Achuthanandan alleged that the Chandy Government was using Mr. Netto to undermine investigation in several cases, including the Malabar Cements case and the vigilance case against Health Minister Adoor Prakash and other ministers.

Re-investigation was ordered as part of the attempt to undermine the vigilance case against Mr. Prakash. Mr. Netto had now written to the Minister holding the charge of vigilance department seeking then cancellation of the probe against former Youth Congress leader Srinijan (son-in-law of former Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan), who had been accused of amassing wealth. ”Interestingly, realisation dawned on Mr. Netto that the Vigilance Department did not have powers to inquire into the allegations against Srinijan only after completing the inquiry”, he said.

In reply to a question, Mr. Achuthanandan said the current phase of the Palmolein case had begun just a few months ago. Mr. Jiji Thomson had been one of the accused during the 19-year period that the case had been fought in the courts. All these years, Mr. Thomson did not have any cause for complaint in connection with his loss of opportunities in Government owing to the pendency of the Palmolein case.

He said that the trial in the Palmolein case had started as per the Supreme Court verdict in this regard. In the backdrop of the Vigilance Judge’s withdrawal from hearing the case, it is possible that the case would be heard by other judges. In the event of any difficulties in conducting smooth hearing, he was not averse to moving the Supreme Court to seek its intervention.

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