news Friday, January 09, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute | January 9, 2015 | 12.15 PM IST Politics in Kerala today is seeing shrill demands for the resignation of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. Behind the din is a twenty-four-year-old case that has come to haunt the Congress-led state government. The verdict of the High Court of Kerala quashing the Chandy government’s decision to withdraw the palmolien case has come as yet another setback to the state government. The Kerala High Court on Thursday set aside the government’s order to wind up the palmolien case of 1991. Upholding the order of the vigilance court that the trial cannot be stopped, the High Court said that the trial should continue and the truth should be unearthed. “The public should know why the case was withdrawn. Still they have doubts over the deal. The truth should be unearthed through trial. The withdrawal of the case could only benefit the accused,” the HC noted, according to a report in Matrubhumi. The twenty-four-year-old case involves import of 15,000 metric ton of palmolien from Singapore by the then Congress-led UDF government under K. Karunakaran in 1991.  The then Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan had alleged that the tender to the Singapore-based company was given arbitrarily, without issuing tender, and at an inflated price. His stand was vindicated when the C&AG came out with its report where it said that the deal had brought a loss of Rs. 2.3 crore to the state exchequer in 1994. However, it was only in 1996 when the Left came to power that a case was registered by the vigilance department. K. Karunakaran and his cabinet colleague, and four other senior bureaucrats of the state were charge sheeted. Of the bureaucrats who were accused is Jiji Thompson, an IAS officer who was then the Managing Director of Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation. The case was taken to the High Court and later the Supreme Court and the trail has been continuing for years now. In 2005 when the Congress was back to power in the state, Oommen Chandy as the Chief Minister started working to withdraw the case. But in 2006, the Congress lost the elections and the Left came back to power. Chandy’s decision to withdraw the case was scrapped by Achuthanandan, the then Chief Minister. It was the Congress-led UDF government’s second move to wind up the case that has now been set aside by the Vigilance Court and the High Court. The government had said that the careers of those officers who were charge sheeted were being affected, especially their promotions. An accused in the case, IAS officer P.J. Thomas, earlier had to step down as the Central Vigilance Commissioner following him being named in the charge sheet. The current set back to the government, apart from political, consists in the fact that its decision to promote senior IAS officer of the 1980 batch Jiji Thomson, who was also named as an accused in this case, as the Chief Secretary of the state has been hit. Jiji Thomson had personally moved the Vigilance Court and also the High Court seeking exemption from the case, but both courts adjudicated the plea against his favour. He was for the past seven years in Delhi in central deputation and his last assignment was as the Director General in the Sports Authority of India in the additional secretary rank. Now that he is back in Kerala, and the present Chief Secretary of the state Bharat Bhushan is to retire on January 31, the government was all set to promote Thomson to that post. The court order to continue trial will cause a hindrance to the government on this front. “The government should withdraw from the move to appoint Jiji Thomson, who is facing trial in a graft case, at the supreme bureaucratic post,” Times of India quoted Achuthanandan as stating. ​This is the second appointment to top offices in the state that is being hit by controversies. Few days back the government's appointment of Tomin Thachankary as ADGP had also come under severe criticism.​ Read - A look at the controversies around Tomin Thachankary, man promoted as Kerala's ADGP Not only that, political pressure, too, is mounting on the state government. From solar scam to Titanium scam to the currently brewing National Games corruption allegations, the government has to add to its kitty this court order too. “He cannot continue as the chief minister, not even for a minute, if he has any morality. He has been trying out various steps to escape from the corruption charges and the move to withdraw palmolien case was one among them. The high court has made it clear that the case is not a politically motivated one,” said Achuthanandan. CPI leader Pannyan Raveendran and BJP state president V. Muraleedharan too has demanded that the Chief Minister resign immediately. However, ally of the Congress in the ruling alliance, the Muslim League has offered its support to Chandy. Its leader Kunhalikutty said that the government will take into account what the court has said and move forward accordingly. Though none can be sure whether the trial of the palmolien case will be over, it is certain that this will be used by opposition parties during the 2016 assembly election campaign as one more issue with which they could taunt the Congress-led UDF rule. Tweet Follow @thenewsminute ​
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