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Court dismisses plea to probe Chandy in palmoil scam

The Kerala High Court Friday gave a clean chit to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in the palmoil import case, dismissing a petition for a further probe to see if he has any role in the scam 19 years ago.

A division bench of Acting Chief Justice C.N. Ramachandran Nair disposed of the petition filed by former bureaucrat-turned Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader K.J. Alphonse.

Alphonse, an Independent legislator supported by the Left during 2006-11, had approached the court seeking a further probe to specifically see if Chandy was involved as the finance minister in the 1992 palmoil import deal.

He alleged Chandy could easily influence the ongoing vigilance probe and requested the court to appoint a special investigation team of retired police officials from other states with the court overseeing the probe.

Dismissing the petition, the bench pointed out that the case occurred close to two decades back and it has no relevance now. It also said that the previous two inquiries had given Chandy a clean chit in the scam.

Early this month, counsel for the Kerala government informed the high court that it has no problems if the case is re-investigated.

The government was responding to a petition filed by Kerala bureaucrat and case accused Jiji Thompson, who approached the court last month for its intervention to stop a re-investigation, ordered by Thiruvananthapuram Special Vigilance Judge P.K. Haneefa.

The 1992 case again hit the headlines in August this year when Haneefa rejected the vigilance department’s report giving a clean chit to Chandy, ordered it to conduct a further investigation against Chandy and submit a report in three months’ time.

Soon after Haneefa’s order, the government chief whip P.C.George shot a letter to the president, and the chief justices of both India and the state high court, complaining the judge’s action was against the law of the country.

As controversy broke out, Haneefa last month relinquished the case and requested the high court to make alternate arrangements for its hearing.

The high court Friday also decided to transfer the ongoing vigilance probe from the Thiruvananthapuram vigilance court to the Thrissur vigilance court.

The case for the 1992 palmoil import was registered in 1999 when the Left Democratic Front government led by E.K. Nayanar was in power.

Nayanar’s predecessor K. Karunakaran, his food minister T.H. Mustafa and bureaucrats P.J. Thomas and Jiji Thompson were charged with causing the state a loss of Rs.2.32 crore by importing 15,000 tonnes of palmoil from Malaysia at an enhanced price.

The scam recently cost Thomas his job as the chief vigilance commissioner of India as he had to resign under pressure from the Supreme Court.

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