Supreme Court adjourns hearing on CBI plea against discharge of Kerala CM, others in graft case

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. File   | Photo Credit: S. Gopakumar

The Supreme Court on Tuesday, yet again, adjourned the hearing of the SNC Lavalin corruption case appeals against the discharge of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on the basis of a request made by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).


This is the third time the appeals have been adjourned by the court in 2021. The court had adjourned the case, back-to-back, on January 7 and January 12 in 2021.


On December 4, a Bench led by Justice U.U. Lalit had conceded to a plea made by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for CBI, for an adjournment. On that day, Justice Lalit noted that the appeals have been shuttled from one date to another. The first of the appeals had been filed in October 2017.


In a hearing on October 8, Justice Lalit had cautioned the CBI that the appeals may fail unless the arguments against Mr. Vijayan’s discharge in the corruption case were cast-iron. Justice Lalit had reminded Mr. Mehta that two courts — trial court and the Kerala High Court — had already discharged the Kerala Chief Minister 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.


On Tuesday, Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju appeared for the CBI. As soon as the case was called, Mr. Raju sought an adjournment.


Justice Lalit, reluctant to adjourn the hearing, said the court was willing to wait and hear the case at the end of the board — that is, after the day’s list of cases were over.


But Mr. Raju softly insisted on an adjournment, saying he was engaged in another case which would take up the whole day.


After a short discussion with the Bench, Justice Lalit posted the case for April 6. This time, Mr. Raju urged the court for an earlier date.


“We are fully occupied the whole of next month (March). We can accommodate you only in April," Justice Lalit replied. Mr. Raju agreed.


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, which was hearing the case initially, had also 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, who 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.

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Printable version | Mar 1, 2021 6:50:43 AM |

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