C. Gouridasan Nair

Gavai rejects Kerala Cabinet’s advice

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Rejecting the State Cabinet’s clear advice to the contrary, Kerala Governor R.S. Gavai on Sunday conveyed his permission to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to prosecute Communist Party of India (Marxist) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan in the SNC-Lavalin case involving certain charges of corruption.

The CBI had sought the Governor’s clearance to proceed against Mr. Vijayan under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which mandates such clearance in the case of persons who were or are public servants at the time an alleged crime under IPC is committed. With the Governor granting permission, the CBI is now free to file a charge sheet and initiate prosecution measures against Mr. Vijayan, who is listed as the ninth accused. The case had acquired more than legal dimensions with Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan reportedly going against the party’s official position that the CBI case is politically motivated and arguing in party fora and even in the Cabinet that Mr. Vijayan should face prosecution. The Cabinet went by Advocate General C.P. Sudhakara Prasad’s advice and recommended to the Governor that clearance need not be given to prosecute him.

Not satisfied with the Cabinet’s advice, the Governor sought further clarifications from the government on the grounds on which the Advocate General and it had given the recommendation, sought and secured further evidence from the CBI and reportedly also consulted legal experts here and in New Delhi.

The Governor’s decision has created a curious situation because K. Mohanachandran, who was the Power Secretary when the contract was given, and A. Francis, who was the Joint Secretary in the Power Department, who were also listed as accused now remain exempt from prosecution. The Cabinet had gone by the advice of the AG in their case too and decided not to grant permission for their being prosecuted. The CBI will now have to move the courts to secure clearance to prosecute them.

The CPI(M) State secretariat said the party stood firm in its position that the CBI move was politically motivated. “The UDF and other anti-party forces have been exerting strong pressure on the Governor for the last three months for clearance for prosecution. Reports purportedly emanating from the CBI have been appearing in different media at each stage of the case. On its part, the CBI had given silent consent to this. It is perhaps for the first time that the CBI has waited at the Raj Bhavan and secured an order. It is most unfortunate that the Governor has taken a decision which is at variance with the advice it had sought and secured from the Cabinet. The attack on the CPI(M) and the party secretary will be dealt with politically and legally,” the statement said.

Corrections and Clarifications

The CBI has sought prosecution of Mr. Pinarayi Vijayan under the provisionsof the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC), and not under the Indian Penal Code(IPC) as reported in "Governor clears prosecution of Kerala CPI(M) leader"(June 8, 2009, page 1). The detail was correct in the report on the insidepage, "Decision comes after elaborate exercise" (June 8, 2009).

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