The Supreme Court on Tuesday paved the way for resumption of trial in Kerala's 20-year-old palmolein oil scam involving Chief Vigilance Commissioner PJ Thomas.
It gave the go-ahead to a trial court in Kerala to proceed with the case after treating former chief minister K Karunakaran's appeal as “abated” in the wake of his death in December.
Old ghost returns
What the scam was all about:
Congress-led Karunakaran government in Kerala imported 15,000 tonnes of palmolein from Malaysia in 1991-92
Kerala allegedly paid $15 (R645) more per tonne than the prevailing market price, thereby losing Rs2.32 crore
PJ Thomas was the food and civil supplies secretary then
Chargesheet against Karunakaran, others, including Thomas
In 2005, Congress-led UDF government moved court to withdraw case
In 2006, Left-led LDF govt reversed this decision
In 2007, Karunakaran moved Supreme Court, seeking quashing of the case
Karunakaran had moved the Supreme Court in 2007 seeking quashing of the case, claiming it was politically motivated.
This puts Thomas's position as head of India's anti-corruption watchdog under a cloud as he supervises the CBI, the prosecutor in the palmolein case.
However, it remains unclear whether a sanction will be needed to prosecute Thomas, the state's food and civil supplies secretary when the scam took place.
Thomas had signed the order to import 15,000 tonnes of palmolein oil from a Singapore-based firm at $15 per tonne more than the prevailing market price in 1991-92. The import caused the state exchequer a loss of Rs2.32 crore.
Thomas is already in the eye of a storm over his appointment as CVC despite being an accused in the palmolein case and his alleged role in covering up the R1.76 lakh crore 2G spectrum scam.
He has to respond to a Supreme Court notice on a petition challenging his appointment as CVC before January 27.
Thomas withdrew from supervising the 2G scam after another apex court bench questioned his credibility to oversee the CBI probe.