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SC issues notice to Pinarayi Vijayan in SNC-Lavalin Corruption case

The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice in SNC-Lavalin Corruption case to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. A Bench of Justices N V Ramana and S Abdul Nazeer agreeing to hear the CBI’s appeal sought a reply from Vijayan and the other accused involved in the case who had earlier been let off. The Court while accepting the CBI’s plea issued notices returnable within 4 weeks by the parties.

When Vijayan was discharged by the Kerala High Court in the SNC-Lavalin Corruption case, Central Bureau of Investigation had challenged his discharge. Vijayan is accused of plotting a criminal conspiracy during his tenure as electricity minister from May 1996 to October 1998.

He, along with other accused in the case, was accused of awarding the contract for the renovation and modernization of few hydroelectric projects to a Canada-based company SNC-Lavalin at exorbitant rates causing a loss to the tune of Rs. 374.50 crore to the state. Six others accused in the case, who were discharged, were senior executives of the Kerala State Electricity Board.

The HC had remarked that Vijayan cannot be prosecuted in the absence of “strong and definite material and circumstances to show that he had some sort of unholy nexus with the SNC Lavalin or the other accused” and had discharged him. But the CBI had alleged that Vijayan, without any expert feasibility study or technical reports wrongly entered into contracts with SNC Lavalin in February 1997. It had further alleged that there was neither any global tender called for the projects nor fixation of rates.

CBI had also questioned exoneration of Vijayan and other accused in the case saying that they were discharged without a clear finding to the reasons behind same.

Tushar Mehta, Additional Solicitor General, appearing for the CBI said that this was a case which demanded intervention of a top court and that the notices must go to all the accused and it was after acceptance of CBI’s plea court issued notices to all.

CBI had sought postponement and on Wednesday, the Apex Court had postponed hearing in the case to Thursday. Senior advocate Geetha Luthra, who appeared on behalf of CBI sought the hearing to be deferred till Friday but the SC bench had posted it to Thursday. The court on December 28 had scheduled the hearing for Wednesday.

The Kerala High Court had given a clean chit to the Chief Minister owing to lack of evidence against him, which was followed by the CBI moving the apex court to challenge his discharge.

Pinarayi Vijayan’s image by Sreejithkoiloth (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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