In what comes as a big relief, for Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the Kerala High Court on Thursday quashed a revision petition filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the SNC Lavalin case.
The court declared that the allegations against the CM were not factual and removed his name from the accused list. Stating that Pinarayi was made a scapegoat by the CBI, the court said that three accused including the CM need not face trial. However, accused two to four will need to face trial, the court said.
Justice P Ubaid pronounced the verdict with the judgement running to 202 pages.
The CBI had challenged a judgment by the Thiruvananthapuram CBI special court discharging Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and six others from the SNC-Lavalin corruption case.
The Special Court had said that no conspiracy could be proved.
Senior Supreme Court lawyer Harish Salve had appeared for Pinarayi Vijayan in the Kerala High Court. He had argued that the CBI’s case was fanciful and that Vijayan had not treated the deal as a special one or given it any special attention.
Dismissing the CBI’s case, the Thiruvananthapuram special court in 2013 had said that there was no proof that the accused had gained ‘pecuniary advantage’.
The case dates back to the period between 1996-1998 when Pinarayi Vijayan was the Power Minister of Kerala.
Pinarayi Vijayan and others were accused of hatching a criminal conspiracy to hand over a contract and making political gains from it.
In 2009, Pinarayi was named as the 9th co-accused by the CBI in the SNC-Lavalin case which allegedly caused the state to lose Rs 86.25 crores. The loss according to CBI was due to the faulty contract awarded to Canadian firm SNC-Lavalin for the renovation of the Pallivasal, Sengulam and Panniar hydel power stations.
Pinarayi as the then Power Minister in the LDF-led government had signed the said contract in 1997. The contract was signed after Pinarayi travelled to Canada in 1996 to hold talks and also rejected an offer by BHEL to take up the contract.Incidentally, the Memorandum of Understanding which was drawn up by the previous UDF government would not have technically allowed the LDF -then in power- to withdraw from the contract even if it wanted to.
The charge was also that the money promised by the company to fund a cancer hospital was not given fully. Pinarayi was also accused of securing funding for the hospital in north Kerala and making political gains.
Pinarayi was cleared of all charges by a Special Court in 2013 which termed that allegations had not been proven.