The Supreme Court on Friday adjourned the hearing of the SNC Lavalin corruption case appeals against the discharge of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to January 7 on the basis of a request made by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who is appearing for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Justice U.U. Lalit, heading the three-judge Bench, noted how the case is being adjourned time and again.
Mr. Mehta said the case required a detailed hearing and would require some time. Meanwhile, the court gave the central agency permission to file additional documents.
The case had seen repeated adjournments and changes in the Bench in the past years in the Supreme Court.
When the case came up before Justice Lalit’s Bench, the judge, on October 8, had cautioned the CBI that it would need to bolster its appeal against Mr. Vijayan with “very strong arguments” as two courts — the trial court and the Kerala High Court — have already discharged him of any wrong-doing.
“You know that two courts have concurrently said these persons need not be tried. You will have to come up now with very strong arguments to say they should not be discharged,” Justice Lalit had told Mr. Mehta.
The case has skipped from one date to another since January 2018, when the apex court had stayed the trial.
A Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana had, on the same day, admitted the CBI appeal against Mr. Vijayan’s discharge in the graft case.
Mr. Vijayan was discharged as an accused by both the Special Court, CBI, in Thiruvananthapuram, and the Kerala High Court.
The CBI has, in its appeal, contended that Mr. Vijayan should face trial in the case.
The corruption case concerns the loss of ₹86.25 crore in the Kerala State Electricity Board’s (KSEB) contract with Lavalin for the renovation and modernisation of Pallivasai, Sengulam and Panniar hydroelectric projects in Idukki district of Kerala. Mr. Vijayan was the State’s Power Minister then.
The premier investigation agency said Mr. Vijayan had travelled to Canada as a “guest” of Lavalin in 1997.
It was there, in Canada, he had made the “crucial” decision to promote Lavalin, which was a mere consultancy firm retained on fixed-rate basis, from consultants to suppliers.
The CBI has argued that the decision of the Kerala High Court to discharge the Chief Minister was “not correct.”
The High Court had upheld the discharge of Mr. Vijayan and two former KSEB senior officers — K. Mohanachandran and A. Francis. Mr. Mohanachandran is a former principal secretary, Department of Power, and Mr. Francis, the then joint secretary in the same department.
However, three other accused — M. Kasthuriranga Iyer, G. Rajasekharan Nair and R. Sivadasan — were asked to stand trial. Mr. Nair was then Member (Accounts) of the KSEB and Mr. Iyer was Chief Engineer (Generation) in the Board. They have also appealed to the Supreme Court for parity of treatment.