22-year-old palmoil case rocks Kerala assembly
The Kerala assembly Tuesday saw a verbal spat between Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and the opposition over the 22-year-old palmoil case.
Speaker G. Karthikeyan, before allowing the Left opposition permission to raise the palmoil case, pointed out this has been raised on numerous occasions and it is not proper to raise an issue that is sub-judice.
It was V.S. Sunil Kumar of the Communist Party of India (CPI) who sought leave for the motion. He said this is significant since it was early this month that the Thrissur vigilance court denied the Kerala government's request to withdraw the palmoil import case that took place way back in 1992.
"This was the second occasion that Chandy as chief minister is moving the court to cancel the case. This is a case of corruption and eminent jurists like V.R. Krishna Iyer have in the past pointed out that no one has the authority to withdraw a corruption case," Sunil Kumar said.
"This is being done by Chandy so as to save himself from the case," said Kumar, who along with V.S. Achuthanandan of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had moved the Thrissur court asking it not to allow the withdrawal of the case.
The import of 15,000 tonnes of palmoil was undertaken in 1992.
The case was registered in 1999 when the Communists led by E.K. Nayanar were in power.
Former chief minister K. Karunakaran, then food minister T.H. Mustafa and bureaucrats P.J. Thomas and Jiji Thompson were charged with causing a loss of Rs.2.32 crore by importing oil from Malaysia at an enhanced price.
Thomas had to step down as the central vigilance commissioner and Thompson's promotion hit a dead-end on account of the inordinate delay in the case.
Chandy said if at all anyone has saved him from the case, it was none other than the Left opposition on three different occasions.
"It was me as finance minister in 1992 who first replied to your allegation of corruption. At that point of time, none of you in the opposition ever said I am saying it to save myself," Chandy said.
"Then in 1996 when E.K.Nayanar-led Left government was in office, you launched the probe and after nearly five years of probe, all what you did was to make me as the 23rd witness in the case."
"Then in 2006, when Achuthanandan headed the government you never did anything to implicate me. Were you all sleeping then on the three occasions?", asked Chandy which was greeted with thumping of the desk from the treasury benches.
Chandy said then the target of the Left opposition was K.Karunakaran and now the opposition wants to make political capital again.
"...I act according to my conscience and whatever you try to do, I will stand by the decision that I decided to withdraw it (the case) because I know there has been no corruption in the deal. If it was true, then we all wish to know why Achuthanandan as chief minister made Thomas the chief secretary of the state. Our own officials are suffering because of this non-existent case," said Chandy.
State Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala told the house that even the apex court has given permission to withdraw the case and, hence, the state government will appeal against the Thrissur court's decision in the high court shortly.
Unhappy with Chandy's reply, Achuthanandan criticised him and said this is a case of corruption. He then led the opposition out of the house.
(Posted on 21-01-2014)