Kerala High court upholds Pinarayi Vijayan's acquittal in SNC-Lavalin case
The Kerala High Court on Wednesday upheld Pinarayi Vijayan's acquittal in the controversial SNC-Lavalin case. In a move that came as big relief to the Kerala Chief Minister, the High Court rejected CBI's revision petition and observed that Vijayan cannot be held accountable for losses to the exchequer.
The CBI, that is investigating the alleged irregularities in the project that involves a Canadian company, had filed a revision petition challenging the acquittal of Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other accused by a special court. Justice Ubaid bench of the Kerala High Court held that Vijayan was being made a scapegoat in the case and upheld the lower court order acquitting him of all charges. Vijayan along with other accused was acquitted by the Thiruvananthapuram special court earlier. The CBI had filed charges of criminal conspiracy against Pinarayi Vijayan for influencing the Rs 374 crore deal.
The order comes as a breather to Vijayan who was represented by Harish Salve in the case. In a statement before the court, Vijayan had claimed that SNC-Lavalin, a Canadian company, did not offer to provide funds to set up a cancer centre. He also claimed there was no specific evidence or document against him to implicate him in the case. The court observed that Vijayan, who was the then minister for Electricity in Kerala, could not be held accountable for the losses incurred by the government in the project. The court also said that many ministers who held the portfolio had discussions with the company but only Vijayan had been made the accused by the CBI.
The case pertains to alleged irregularities in a project dating back to 1995 when the Kerala government signed a memorandum of understanding with Canadian company SNC-Lavalin for the renovation and modernization of the Pallivasal, Sengulam, and Panniar hydroelectric projects. The total deal was worth Rs 374 crore and as per the contract sanctioned by the state cabinet, the company was supposed to provide a grant of Rs 98.30 crore to the Malabar Cancer Institute. The hospital, however, received an amount of Rs 8.98 crore.
The CAG reported largescale loss to the exchequer in the deal due to technical defects in the equipment renovated. The CAG also said that the very objective of improvement in power generation could not be achieved since there was no improvement in the efficiency of the machines. In 2007 the Kerala High Court ordered a CBI inquiry into the case.