KOCHI ~ Last month, Open published a story, ‘The Long Arm of the Lawless’, on Balakrishna Pillai, an ally in the Congress-led UDF government in Kerala who’d been sentenced to one year rigorous imprisonment. At the time, of the 144 days he’d supposedly already served, he’d been out of jail for 53 days. Pillai had been convicted by the Supreme Court in a corruption case dating back to 1982, when he was minister for power. His latest parole has just got over and, as expected, Pillai is still not in jail.
Soon after his parole ended, Pillai was admitted to a private hospital in Thiruvanantha-puram.The medical board recommended his admission citing a heart condition and rare disease called haemochromatosis. A prisoner cannot be admitted to a private hospital unless treatment is unavailable in the government medical college. In Pillai’s case, no such reason existed, but the government issued a special order for him. Opposition Left parties are alleging that Pillai didn’t visit a doctor even once when he was out on parole.
Pillai has been granted parole four times already and has spent more than half his jail life outside. The UDF government had reportedly even planned to grant him premature release, but Chief Minister Oommen Chandy postponed this step fearing public anger. On this, a furious Pillai called up the state Congress President Ramesh Chennithala and threatened to withdraw support. The UDF currently rules in Kerala on a slender majority of four. The CM then went to Pillai’s home last week to mollify him. It was during this visit, according to sources, that Chandy assured Pillai that the government would shift him to hospital the day his parole got over.
According to senior lawyer Kelu Nambiar, letting a prisoner roam free in this manner amounts to contempt of court. The government, he adds, should have presented him before a medical board comprising doctors from outside the state before granting permission to have him admitted to hospital.
Pillai’s jail term is to end on 18 November. But as per the jail rules, his sentence must be extended in proportion to the number of days he stays outside.▪