Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy on Tuesday gave up the vigilance portfolio after a local court wanted his role in the controversial palm oil import deal investigated.
Vigilance and anti corruption bureau special judge PK Haneefa on Monday rejected the Kerala vigilance department’s position that there was no case against Chandy, who was finance minister when the deal was signed in 1992.
“I have good faith in the judicial system. I never lose faith whenever something adverse happens to me. I will come out of this,” Chandy said, while announcing his decision.
Revenue minister Thiruvanchur Radhakrishnan, a Congressman, will now hold the vigilance portfolio.
Though Chandy had expressed his desire to quit on Monday, the Congress high command and allies prevailed on him, advising him not to take precipitate action. However, the opposition is not impressed.
“Handing over vigilance to his close associate is not sufficient. To ensure a free and fair investigation, he has to step down. He should quit on moral and legal grounds,” CPI(M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said.
Former CM and opposition leader VS Achuthanandan, who vigorously pursued the case for almost two decades, also said such cosmetic changes wouldn’t serve any purpose.
The case took a new turn in March, when TH Mustafa, an accused who was food minister then, pleaded before the court that since it was a collective decision of the cabinet, “justice should be done to Chandy” by making him just a “witness” in the matter. Mustafa wanted the same treatment for himself also.
After a preliminary probe, the vigilance department filed a report, saying there was no evidence to include Chandy in the list of the accused. The state supposedly lost Rs 2.32 crore through the import deal, executed through a Singapore-based firm.