J. Venkatesan

Court was informed that the State Government had decided to withdraw the case

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the Kerala Government to file an application before a special court in Thiruvananthapuram for withdrawing the corruption case against the former Chief Minister K. Karunakaran in the Rs.2.80-crore palm oil import `scam' during 1991-92.

Acting on a petition from Mr. Karunakaran, the apex court in April 2003 had stayed the proceedings taken in pursuance to a judgment of the Kerala High Court dated February 19, 2003 that no permission of the Lok Sabha Speaker would be necessary to prosecute him despite the fact that he was an MP when he was charge-sheeted.

Government decision

When the case relating to sanction for prosecution of Mr. Karunakaran and others came up for hearing on Thursday before a three-Judge Bench of Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice C.K. Thakker and Justice P.K. Balasubramanyan, the court was informed that the State Government had decided to withdraw the case but it could not do so in view of the stay of the trial.

The Bench then said the State could withdraw the case by filing an application before the special court but the stay of the trial would continue.

The Bench, however, made it clear that when the trial court proceeded to hear the withdrawal application, it should also hear the Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan since he had questioned the withdrawal of the case.

Initially in 1997, the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau, Special Cell, Thiruvananthapuram, registered a case against Mr. Karunakaran and seven others under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, accusing Mr. Karunakaran and others of criminal conspiracy causing a loss of Rs.2.80 crores to the State exchequer on account of import of 15,000 tonnes of palm oil from Malaysia at an enhanced price.

The special court in March 2001 held that it was necessary to obtain sanction for prosecution from the Lok Sabha for taking cognizance of the case.

But on a revision petition filed by the State, the High Court on February 19, 2003 held that no sanction from the Lok Sabha Speaker was necessary and accordingly further proceedings were initiated before the special court.

The special leave petition by Mr. Karunakaran was directed against this judgment.