SC Clears Decks for CVC's Trial in Palmolein Oil Scam

New Delhi
SC Clears Decks for CVC's Trial in Palmolein Oil Scam
In a setback to Chief Vigilance Commissioner P J Thomas, the Supreme Court today cleared the decks for a Kerala court to proceed with the trial in the 10-year-old palmolein oil scam case in which he is an accused along with then Chief Minister K Karunakaran.

A bench of Justices Aftab Alam and R M Lodha gave the green signal after treating as "abated"(ended) Karunakaran's appeal challenging the trial in view of his death on December 23 last year.

The Kerala government had moved the apex court on December 14 seeking vacation of the stay granted by the latter on August 3, 2007. The stay was granted after Karunakaran filed the appeal challenging the trial.

However, when the matter came up for hearing today, Karunakaran's counsel Bina Madhavan informed the bench that the former Chief Minister and senior Congress leader had died on December 23.

The court observed it was aware of the development and passed a brief order, "the sole appellant (Karunakaran) died on Dec.23, 2010. Consequently, the appeal stands abated and is dismissed".

The consequence of the order would be that the trial would now proceed in the Special Vigilance Court, Trivandrum.

Thomas had recently faced embarassment when an apex court bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia questioned his continuance in view of the criminal case pending against him in the trial court.

The Centre then came out with an assurance that Thomas would not supervise the CBI's investigation into the 1.75 lakh crore 2G spectrum scam involving then Telecom Minister A Raja as the CVC was the secretary of the ministry when the controversial allocations were made.

The chargesheet in the palmolein oil case was filed in 2000 against Karunakaran and seven senior state government officials, including Thomas, who was then Kerala Food Secretary.

The then Chief Secretary of the state, besides Additional secretary and Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation's Managing Director G G Thomas are also named as an accused in the FIR.

The case pertains to the import of palm oil from a Singapore firm, which was allegedly done at prices higher than the international rate.

The Karunakaran cabinet had approved the import of 15,000 tonnes of palm oil at a rate of USD 405 per tonne whereas the market price was USD 392.25 per tonne.

As Secretary, Food and Civil Supplies, Thomas had issued the government order for the import which had reportedly caused a loss of Rs 2.32 crore to the state exchequer.

In November 2005, the state government had decided to move the trial court to withdraw the prosecution against Karunakaran.

In 2006, it, however, cancelled its decision for withdrawing his prosecution stating that there was no such intention and favoured going ahead with criminal proceedings against all the eight accused including Thomas.
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