Uproar in Kerala House over palmolein case judge

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Old 27-Sep-2011
Uproar in Kerala House over palmolein case judge

Thiruvananthapuram: The first day of the Kerala assembly session yesterday ran into turmoil as the opposition raised the issue of a vigilance court judge recusing himself from hearing the palmolein import case.

The judge had recused himself after the assembly chief whip P.C. George allegedly made some personal remarks against him.

George later explained that the comments were made in his capacity as a private citizen and not as chief whip, and Chief Minister Oommen Chandy clarified that he himself had no complaint against the judge.

However, the Opposition Left Democratic Front, led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist, was not satisfied and demanded the resignation of Chandy alleging that the government was hampering the judicial process.

The palmolein case pertains to import of palmolein by the state government in the early 1990s when the late K. Karunakaran was chief minister and Chandy was the finance minister.

Slogans raised

The decision of vigilance judge P.K. Hanifa to recuse himself from the case following George's remarks had created a furore, and the opposition brought the issue to the assembly yesterday, arguing that the Chandy government was hindering the independent functioning of the judiciary.

Hanifa had in a suo motu decision ordered investigation into Chandy's role in the palmolein import case.

As the opposition kept on raising slogans in the assembly, Speaker G. Karthikeyan adjourned the proceedings.

Meanwhile, more trouble came George's way during the day as reports said the state governor had received advice from the advocate general that George could be disqualified from the Assembly on the grounds of holding an office of profit.

It is learnt that there is no exemption for the chief whip from holding the cabinet rank.

Disqualification threat

Legal circles say this can attract disqualification.

United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi had to quit her Lok Sabha membership a few years back when the cabinet rank vested in her was found to be an office of profit.

She then contested elections and became an MP again, without the cabinet rank.

George may also have to do so if the legal nuances of the matter go against him.

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