The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed as withdrawn a writ petition filed in 2009 by senior Communist Party of India(Marxist) leader Pinarayi Vijayan challenging the Kerala Governor's order granting the Central Bureau of Investigation sanction to prosecute him for alleged offences in the Rs. 300-crore SNC Lavalin case.
A Bench of Justices H.S. Bedi and C.K. Prasad questioned senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for Mr. Vijayan, why he directly approached the Supreme Court with a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution, instead of first moving the Kerala High Court.
When counsel said the writ petition was filed as there was a violation of the right to life and liberty under Article 21, Justice Bedi told him, “You could have gone to the High Court, which has got the same power regarding violation of your rights.”
Mr. Venugopal said there were violations of other constitutional provisions as well since the Governor granted the CBI sanction for prosecution even after the Cabinet had conveyed its decision that it was not necessary to grant sanction to prosecute Mr. Vijayan for offences under Section 120 B (Conspiracy) read with 420 (Cheating) of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 13 (2) and 13 (1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Justice Bedi said: If the Supreme Court directly entertains petitions from the accused charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act, then every accused can come to this court seeking anticipatory bail saying there was a violation of his right.” Counsel said if the remedy of Article 32 was not available, then it would become “a dead letter in the Constitution.”
Justice Bedi retorted: “We may have the power. But what we are saying is when you have the remedy in the High Court why don't you exhaust that remedy.”
Trial yet to begin
Asked whether trial had commenced, Mr. Venugopal told the judge, “The trial court had taken cognisance of the case but the trial was yet to begin.”
When the Bench said it would dismiss the writ petition, counsel sought permission to withdraw it.
Mr. Vijayan is accused of wrongfully awarding a contract to Canadian company SNC Lavalin for renovation of two power plants when he was Kerala Power Minister in 1997. He said the CBI had written to the Governor seeking sanction for prosecution under Section 197 Cr. PC.
In its response, the CBI said the Governor's decision was final and could not be called into question. Pointing out that the petitioner was a former Minister and now CPI(M) State secretary, the CBI said the secretary's opinion “counts a lot in the selection of the chief ministerial candidate and the Council of Ministers. When it comes to the prosecution of such a person, the Council of Ministers would not appreciate the real facts and advise the Governor without bias.”