Chief Vigilance Commissioner PJ Thomas, whose appointment in September triggered protests from different quarters — especially from the Opposition BJP — because of his alleged involvement in a 2003 corruption case, remains an accused in that case.
Although the Centre claimed Thomas was exonerated in the palm oil import case, records at the state vigilance directorate and the vigilance court show he can still be prosecuted.
According to an enquiry conducted under the Right to Information Act, Thomas, a 1973-batch IAS officer of the Kerala cadre, is the eighth accused in the case filed before the court of the enquiry commissioner and special judge, Thiruvananthapuram.
Thomas appeared before the court on April 2, 2003 and obtained bail. But records show the first information reports against the eight accused were not quashed. So, Thomas is technically still on bail.
“The case has been charge-sheeted before the court of inquiry commissioner and special judge, Thiruvananthapuram, on 15. 3. 2003 … The case is under trial and the next posting is on September 25, 2010,” the reply to the enquiry said.
Thomas did not take repeated calls from HT to present his side of the case.
However, a legal expert, reque-sting anonymity, said: “Question is not about Thomas’s involvement. He might have followed the Kerala cabinet’s decision.”
In 1992, Kerala under then CM K. Karunakaran imported 15,000 tonne of palm oil from Malaysia through Power and Energy Pvt Ltd for the public distribution service network.
But the deal violated the State Trading Corporation’s import guidelines and resulted in a R2.8-crore loss. Thomas was the state food secretary then.
The CAG first pointed out the irregularities and the case was later handed over to the state vigilance department.
A chargesheet against Karunakaran and seven others was filed on March 17, 2003, according to which the accused entered into a criminal conspiracy with Power and Energy Pvt Ltd and decided on a price higher than the prevailing market rate.
In March 2001, a special court ruled that sanction was needed from the Lok Sabha Speaker to proceed against Karunakaran, as he was then a Lok Sabha member. But the Kerala High Court spiked the ruling.
In 2005, the Congress-led UDF decided to withdraw the case. But the order was revoked by the next government of the CPI(M)-led LDF in 2007.
Karunakaran moved a special leave petition in the SC and got a stay on the proceedings.