NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the SNC-Lavalin corruption case. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had moved against Vijayan’s discharge by the Kerala High Court.
A bench headed by Justice N V Ramana agreed to hear the CBI’s appeal and sought a reply from Vijayan and K Mohanachandran, former principal secretary, Department of Power, and A Francis, then joint secretary in the same department, who have been let off in the case, and asked them to file their response in four weeks.
The bench also stayed the trial in this case which would have been conducted in respect of the other accused. However, the High Court dismissed the discharge petitions of K G Rajasekharan Nair, then member (accounts) of the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) and Kasthuriranga Iyer, who was its chief engineer (generation).
The court also sought the response of the CBI on pleas by Iyer, Nair and R Sivadasan as to why they were not treated on a par with Vijayan and the two coaccused who were released from all charges in the case. Stressing the need for hearing the case afresh, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said: “I’ve a problem with the release of some accused alone.”
The criminal case concerns the renovation and refurbishment of three hydroelectric projects — Pallivasal, Sengulam and Panniar — and contracts/ transactions between the KSEB and SNC Lavalin, a Canadian entity.
The High Court had noted Vijayan cannot be prosecuted in the absence of strong and definite material, and circumstances to show he had some sort of unholy nexus with the SNC-Lavalin or the other accused. But the CBI alleged Vijayan, who was then Electricity Minister, wrongly entered into contracts with SNC-Lavalin in February 1997 without any expert feasibility study or technical reports, and had alleged there was neither any global tender called for the projects nor fixation of rates.