The CBI has told the Supreme Court that Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who was discharged from all criminal and corruption charges in the SNC Lavalin case, “should face trial”.
In an affidavit filed in the court, the Central Bureau of Investigation questioned the discharge of Vijayan and two others, saying the Kerala High Court orders in this regard was “not correct”.
The CBI has challenged the High Court’s August 23, 2017, order to discharge Vijayan, K. Mohanachandran, former Principal Secretary in Department of Power, and A. Francis, then department Joint Secretary. The High Court had given the go-ahead for the trial of remaining three accused, who are Kerala State Electricity Board officials.
Objecting to the High Court’s decision to discharge certain accused and making remaining charge-sheeted persons to face trial, the CBI said: “Vijayan should also face trial for the same set of offences”.
“The specific acts and omissions of each accused can only be decided in a properly conducted trial and the discharge of some accused may adversely impact the outcome vis-a-vis those tried in court,” said the CBI affidavit.
Reacting to the fresh development, Leader of Opposition in Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala told the media that it had now been proved right what they had been saying all along. “Vijayan should now react to this… we have been saying all through that he has a role in it.”
Vijayan, however, has not responded so far.
The case pertains to an agreement with Canadian firm SNC Lavalin in 1997 for the renovation and modernisation of Pallivasai, Sengulam and Panniar hydroelectric projects in Idukki district of Kerala, which allegedly caused a loss of Rs 266 crore to the exchequer.
Vijayan was then the Power Minister in Kerala.
The three accused directed to face trial too had approached the apex court, asking why they were not treated on par with Vijayan and two co-accused discharged in the case.
The CBI maintained that the High Court order was “bad in law” and its findings that Vijayan and two others need not to face the trial amounts to “clear differentiation” between two sets of accused.
“Without the knowledge of Vijayan and two others, the consultancy agreements would not have been converted into supply contracts on fixed rates on February 10, 1997, when Vijayan was (Power) Minister and had gone to Canada along with Mohanachandran (also discharged in the case) as a guest of Lavalin and during the visit the decision to sign the supply contract was taken by Vijayan,” the affidavit added.
“The wilful omissions and commissions on the part of the public servants provided the opportunity to SNC Lavalin for deriving wrongful gains, casing corresponding loss to the KSEB,” it added.
A bench of Justice N.V. Ramana and Justice Abdul Nazeer had earlier stayed the trial of the case and sought the CBI’s response.
On November 5, 2013, a CBI court in the state capital exonerated all the accused, without taking up the case for trial.
However, a year later, the CBI approached the High Court against the CBI court’s exoneration, which ordered the trial against three persons and discharged three others, including Vijayan.
A criminal case was registered on February 12, 2007, and the CBI filed its charge sheet on June 12, 2009.