Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) P.J. Thomas Monday told the Supreme Court that he was the victim of a political cross-fire between late former Kerala chief minister K. Karunakaran and Left Democratic Front (LDF) leader and Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan.”Unfortunately, this respondent was caught in the middle of political battle which arose between the former chief minister of Kerala, Sri Karunakaran, and the present Chief Minister, Sri Achuthanandan,” Thomas told the court in his affidavit, filed over a petition challenging his appointment as the CVC.
The CVC filed his reply in response to a notice issued to him by the apex court bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar on a petition by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL).
The petition questioned his appointment as the CVC when he was facing court proceedings in a criminal case involving the import of palm oil in Kerala in 1991, allegedly causing a huge loss to the public exchequer.
Thomas was secretary, food and civil supplies, in the Kerala government when the controversial import deal was finalised.
“The sword of this prosecution which is purely based on political overtones has been hanging over this deponent’s (Thomas) head for almost 20 years,” Thomas said in his affidavit.
He also referred to the withdrawal of the case by former chief minister Oommen Chandy’s government, led by the Congress, and its subsequent re-opening by the Achuthanandan government.
Pointing to the political nature of the case, Thomas said in his affidavit: “The same LDF government appointed the deponent (Thomas) as chief secretary to its government on Sep 18, 2007. Clearly, the continuation of the prosecution in the palmolein case was meant to target Karunakaran and not the deponent.”
The CVC took exception to the use of expressions like “dishonest”, “dubious” and “suspect” while referring to his integrity.
He said that the usage of these expression about his integrity were defamatory and there was no judicial or administrative finding to support such words which were being used in such a casual manner.
Thomas said that in 1991 when the Kerala government imported the palm oil at $405 per tonne, on the same day the West Bengal government imported the same oil for $407 per tonne.
He said: “The CAG had no opportunity to know that other states had imported palmolein oil at the same rate and in any event, the state of West Bengal had imported at $407 on the same day that Kerala imported at $405. What is more, the CAG had no material in his hands to show that the state of Kerala made a profit of Rs.7.6 crore as against an allegation of Rs.2.32 crore.”
Thomas said he was repeatedly cleared as far as his professional conduct and integrity were concerned. He said the central government gave a clean chit to him twice.
He told the court that even the then CVC had said that no case was made out against him or other Indian Administrative Service officers in the palm oil import case in Kerala.
Thomas said as far as the scandal involving the 2008 second generation airwave allocation to telecom companies was concerned, he became the telecom secretary months after the allotment process was over.