The non-consideration of the 1996 E. Balanandan committee report on power development while awarding the contract to renovate and modernise three hydroelectric projects in the State to the Canadian firm SNC-Lavalin could not be deemed as “a deliberate act or an evil design” on the part of the accused, including Pinarayi Vijayan, in the alleged corruption case, Central Bureau of Investigation special judge R. Reghu pronounced in his court here on Wednesday.
The committee was for the rehabilitation of the Pallivasal, Sengulam and Panniyar hydroelectric projects, which had run its projected life span, as a short-term measure and recommended only the replacement of essential parts at an estimated cost of Rs.100.50 crore. However, the accused had awarded the contract to renovate and modernise the projects with a stated aim to increase its life span by 35 years.
The Comptroller and Auditor General had reported that the contract had caused loss to the public exchequer and also how it quantified the loss. “Unless and until this loss is attributable to the overt act alleged to have been committed by the accused, the CAG report cannot render any help to the prosecution in substantiating the charge levelled against the accused,” the judge said.
The procurement of equipment for the renovation has not caused any loss to the State. The reduction of the foreign loan from Export Development Canada (EDC) from Rs.173 crore to Rs.157 crore and reduction of consultancy charges from Rs.24 crore to Rs.17.88 crore, both achieved by a high-level delegation led by Mr. Vijayan to Canada, annulled the CBI’s charge that the accused had caused undue pecuniary advantage to Lavalin.
“If the accused had a desire to help SNC-Lavalin unlawfully and enrich itself from the contract, they would not have made such a substantial reduction in the amount,” the judge said.
The court said the feasibility of executing a MoA to secure the entire grant element of Rs.98.60 crore for the MCC from Lavalin was questionable in the absence of tripartite agreement involving the other Canadian agencies who had promised the grant in reciprocation for the contract.