The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday received a jolt, after the Supreme Court asked it to come up with very strong grounds to appeal against the discharge of Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan in the SNC Lavalin graft case. The CBI had moved the SC against the discharge of the Chief Minister, who was initially named as an accused in the controversial case.
Meanwhile, the CBI told the Supreme Court that this is a cross appeals matter filed in 2017, and it will file a comprehensive note with the factual aspects of the matter.
A bench consisting of Justices UU Lalit, Vineet Saran and S Ravindra Bhat was told by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, that this is an appeal against the discharge of the accused. This is in regard to the case of alleged corruption in awarding contract to the Canadian firm Lavalin when Pinarayi Vijayan was Power Minister in 1996. This move allegedly caused a loss of Rs 374.50 crore to the state exchequer. The SG said that the trial court had initially discharged some accused in the case and the Kerala High Court had upheld the decision.
The bench said that, since two courts have concurrently held that certain accused should not be tried in the case, the CBI must come up with very strong grounds to shake that finding in the matter. Mehta said that initially a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in the Kerala High Court, ordering a CBI probe in the case.
He also said that CBI filed the charge sheet for the case in 2009, but some of the accused were discharged by the trial court in 2013, a decision which was later upheld by the High Court in 2017.
The bench, summarising the arguments of Mehta, said that the CBI has filed the appeal against discharge of the accused; a few other accused who were not discharged have filed an appeal in the top court against the High Court order for the same.
As per the CBI charge sheet, there were 11 accused in the case. The trial court discharged six of them but the High Court upheld the discharge of only three persons. The three accused have moved the top court seeking their discharge, while five others are facing trial.
Mehta said that since the matter is old, he would like to file a detailed report with a timeline of the events and factual aspects of the matter. The bench granted liberty to the CBI to file a comprehensive report on the factual aspects and listed the matter for further hearing on October 16.
On August 23, 2017, the Kerala High Court had upheld the discharge of the CM in the case, saying the CBI had "wrongly picked" him as prima facie and that there was no case against him. The HC had also upheld the discharge of two others in the Rs 374.50-crore graft case while rejecting the CBI's plea that their full-fledged trial was necessary to prove the conspiracy.