The apex court upheld the prosecution plea that the former minister has entered into a criminal conspiracy that caused a loss of over Rs 2 crore to the Kerala State Electricity Board by awarding contracts for construction of a power tunnel and surge shaft of the Idamalayar hydro electricity power project to contractor Paulose (now deceased) at extra ordinarily high rates. The high court had earlier acquitted Pillai and two others, but Achuthanandan pursued the legal fight in his capacity as opposition leader, and took the case to the Supreme Court. The two other accused in the case, former KSEB chairman Ramabhadran Nair and a contractor, PK Sajeevan have also been handed rigorous imprisonment of one year each."This is a message for all who rob public money and engage in misuse of power. This is the first time that a minister from Kerala is going to jail. I had to fight this case for over two decades, and face a lot of personal abuse and criticism in the process", Achuthanandan said, adding that he felt vindicated now.Interestingly, another high profile case that Achuthanandan has been pursuing, the palmolein case, which will decide the future of central vigilance commissioner PJ Thomas, is also nearing trial.
Reversing the acquittal order passed by the Kerala high court, the apex court held Pillai and two others guilty in the Idamalayar dam corruption case.
Though the scandal surfaced in 1982, it took almost 10 years for the Kerala government to initiate action against Pillai. A trial court found the former minister and two others guilty of the charges and sentenced them to five years rigorous imprisonment. Pillai, whose Kerala Congress (B) is an ally of the Congress-led United Demcoratic Front (UDF), had appealed to the high court, which acquitted him and the others involved in the case.
The Kerala government, then ruled by the UDF, did not file an appeal, but V S Achuthanandan who is now the state's chief minister and was earlier leader of the opposition - challenged the acquittal in the Supreme Court. While Pillai argued that as leader of the opposition Achuthanandan did not have any locus standi in the case, the apex court rejected his plea.
Setting aside the high court's acquittal of Pillai, the Supreme Court expressed surprise that it had overlooked the evidence presented by the prosecution, which had led to the trial court sentencing him. The Supreme Court also expressed anguish over the delays in corruption cases involving politicians, and directed all trial courts handling such cases to expeditiously clear them. It also asked high courts to monitor such cases and seek quarterly reports from the trial courts.
A dispirited Balakrishna Pillai said he would not file a review petition, and that he would surrender when the summons came. "I had not expected this at all. I maintain that I have done nothing wrong, and it was because of me that the Idamalayar project came up", Pillai said.The apex court also expressed concern that cases of corruption relating to political personalities have been dragging endlessly in the country and pointed that in the present case, though the scandal took place in 1982, the prosecution was launched only in 1991. The bench said there was clinching evidence to prove Pillai's involvement in the award of the contract despite the fact that the electricity board was an independent body and was not under the control of the government to warrant his interference.