Court rejects clean chit to Kerala CM

Directs the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau to register a case against Oommen Chandy and 12 others

Thiruvananthapuram : A vigilance court has rejected an investigation report giving a clean chit to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala in the eight year-old Titanium corruption case.

The Thiruvananthapuram Vigilance Court directed the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) to register a case against Chandy and 12 other accused, which include Public Works Minister Ibrahim Kunj and former Industries Secretary T Balakrishnan, and conduct a further probe.

The case is related to corruption to the tune of Rs.100 cr in setting up the waste treatment plant at the state-run Travancore Titanium Products (TTP) Ltd in the state capital. The charge against Chandy is that he went out of his way to implement the Rs.256 cr project.

Chandy was accused of favouring the company that implemented the project even before the Cabinet cleared the project. The VACB that conducted the probe on the complaint of trade union leader Manakkad Jayan had found mismanagement in the project but no corruption. However, the court rejected the report and asked the investigating agency to conduct a further inquiry and submit a report within the next four months.

The opposition had raised the issue in the Assembly earlier and sought the resignation of the Chief Minister. The opposition charge was that Chandy had shown undue haste in awarding the project to Mecon Ltd, a union government undertaking, before the assembly polls in 2006.

They alleged that Chandy had cleared the project before ascertaining the technical and financial feasibility of the project and after taking away the pollution control portfolio from the then health minister K K Ramachandran Master, who opposed the project.

The opposition said that this was intended to favour the companies involved in the project. Chandy had countered the charge saying that he had taken up the project after the trade unions in the company, including those affiliated to the opposition, sought his intervention to save the company from imminent closure.

He said he had written three letters to a Supreme Court panel monitoring the pollution expressing the government’s intention to execute the project after it had given notice for the closure of the company, employing over 1000 workers.

Chandy said that he could not take responsibility for any corruption in the project since it was implemented by the subsequent LDF government. The chief minister pointed out that the VACB, which investigated the complaints against the project during the LDF term, could also not find anything wrong.

The opposition has renewed their demand for the resignation of Chandy and other ministers involved in the case in the light of the court verdict. Communist Party of India state secretary Panniyan Raveendran said that Chandy had no moral right to continue in office after the court made him the main accused in the corruption case.

Former MP Sebastian Paul also feels that continuation of Chandy in office may not be tenable after the case is registered against him. He has urged the Chief Minister to step down and face the investigation.

The issue had created a flutter in 2006 with the then Health Minister K K Ramachandran resigning. Ramachandran, a Congress leader, later alleged that he had been made a scapegoat by Chandy and others.

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