Apex Court Denies CBI's Request For Passover, Adjourns Lavalin Corruption Case Involving Kerala Chief Minister
The Supreme Court today once again adjourned a batch of Special Leave Petitions challenging the Kerala High Court's order which discharged the key accused in the infamous Lavalin corruption case, including Kerala's Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and K.A. Francis, the then Energy Department Secretary.
The bench consisting of Justice Surya Kant, Justice Dipankar Datta, and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan declined to entertain the Central Bureau of Investigation's request for a Passover. Instead, the Bench adjourned the matter to a later date. "Milords, Mr Raju appears in this matter for the CBI. We are seeking a passover", submitted a counsel appearing on behalf of Additional Solicitor General SV Raju.
However, refusing to consider the request for passover, the Bench ordered the matter to be listed for some other date. "No Passover. Next date", remarked Justice Kant.
On the last date of the hearing, the Court had expressed surprise at CBI's request to adjourn the Lavalin corruption case involving Kerala CM. "This matter is being adjourned today?", had asked Justice Surya Kant upon hearing the request for adjournment. The CBI had earlier sought an adjournment as the ASG Raju was held up before some other Court.
In this case, the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau had found that excess payments were made to the Lavalin Company without proper authorization in a contract with the Kerala State Electricity Board during the period when Pinarayi Vijayan served as the power minister in the State. The matter has been adjourned on numerous occasions in past and the Chief Minister and the Centre have been facing political criticism for the same.
The Supreme Court had on January 11, 2018, issued notice in all the SLPs and had stayed the trial until further orders. The matter, since then, has been adjourned on multiple occasions on the request of either of the parties.
As per a media report, a voluntary organization working in tribal areas in Kerala and other states had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Supreme Court Chief Justice DY Chandrachud against Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan requesting not to adjourn Lavlin case further.
In the impugned order, the High Court had noted that Pinarayi Vijayan was nowhere in the picture, when the consultancy contracts were signed. He assumed office as the Electricity Minister in the Kerala Cabinet only in June, 1996.
"I do not find any material to substantiate such an allegation that anything concerning the supply contracts between the SNC Lavalin and the KSEB was suppressed by the 7th accused from the Cabinet. The documents produced by the prosecution include a Cabinet Note also, signed by the then Chief Minister. On consideration of the various aspects reported by the KSEB through the Principal Secretary, the proposal was approved by the Cabinet. Thus, it was a Cabinet decision. If so, there is no explanation why the CBI picked and chose the Electricity Minister for prosecution. The CBI does not have any satisfactory explanation as to what vicious role or dishonest role, the Electricity Minister had in the deal, when he got the things approved by the Cabinet, or when the Cabinet as a whole approved the proposal of the KSEB", read the High Court's order.
The Judge also stated that it was s pertinent to note that what the Cabinet approved was not the proposal of the Electricity Minister, but the proposal of the Cabinet happened to give approval on the basis of the materials furnished and reported by the KSEB and if so, it would be unjust and illegal to pick and choose the Electricity Minister and prosecute him, for the wrong or illegality committed by the KSEB.
The High Court also remarked on the CBI that there is no explanation as to why the CBI did not probe into the failure on the part of the other Ministers, who succeeded Pinarayi Vijayan.
The case pertained to the awarding of a contract to the Canadian company SNC-Lavalin for the renovation of three hydel projects - Chengulam, Pallivasal, and Panniyar. This occurred during the tenure of Pinarayi Vijayan as the power minister in the E K Nayanar cabinet from 1996 to 1998.
Cause Title: Kasthuri Ranga Iyer v. State Rep. By Addl. Superintendent of Police CBI & other connected matters [SLP(Crl) No. 007801 - / 2017]