Kerala’s former Minister Pillai sent to jail in graft case

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Kochi: Former State Power Minister and Kerala Congress (B) leader R. Balakrishna Pillai and contractor P.K. Sajeevan were on February 18 sent to the central prison in the state capital in a corruption case, a week after they were sentenced to one-year imprisonment by the Supreme Court marking the culmination of legal battles lasting over 20 years.

A long-time legislator and former Lok Sabha member for a short stint, Pillai was the first former Minister in Kerala to undergo jail term in a corruption case.

The police, however, did not execute arrest warrant against the second accused in the  case and former  Kerala Sate Electricity Board (KESB) chairman Rama-bhadran Nair, 81, as he was laid up at his home in Thiruvananthapuram in a state of dementia.

With the options before him running out,76-year-old Pillai and Sajeevan surrendered before the special court in Kochi, which tried the case,  responding to the orders issued against them to either surrender or face arrest.

The court rejected Pillai’s plea for “A-class” facilities in the prison, but ordered that he should be ensured proper medical assistance.

The Supreme Court sentenced Pillai and the two others for one year rigorous imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs. 10,000 in its order on February 10, reversing the High Court verdict acquitting them.

According to the prosecution, the accused conspired in awarding the contract for construction of tunnel and surge shaft of the Edmalayar Hydro Electric Project in 1980s, causing Rs. 2 crore loss to the state exchequer.

The legal battle in the apex court against Pillai was waged by Kerala Chief Minister and CPI(M) veteran V.S. Achuthanandan seeking reversal of the Kerala High Court order reversing the  trial court order punishing them.

Reacting to the conviction of Pillai, Achuthanandan said   his stand had been vindicated and the apex court order was a warning to those looting the public wealth.

Though a police officer was sent to Ramabhadran Nair’s house in Thiruvanantha-puram with the warrant, the official returned without arresting him after taking the doctor’s statement on his health condition. The report in this regard would be submitted in the court on February 19.

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