SNC-Lavalin case: Pinarayi has the last laugh
• Kerala HC rejects CBI petition in SNC-Lavalin case
• HC acquits CM Pinarayi Vijayan of all charges
• Pinarayi cannot be held accountable for loss to exchequer
• No evidence against Pinarayi in the case, he has not made any financial gains from the deal
• 3 of the accused to face trial
• CBI will move Supreme Court against HC verdict
Pinarayi reacts to HC verdict
• People were finding a ploy to attack CPM using me, HC identified and exposed the political conspiracy
• Finally, the truth has prevailed: Pinarayi expresses happiness over HC verdict
• He also thanked CPM cadres and his party for supporting him throughout
Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Wednesday upheld the discharge of chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan by the trial court in a two-decades-old corruption case, saying the CBI had wrongly "picked" him for prosecution.
Justice P. Ubaid also upheld the discharge of the first and eighth accused by the lower court in the Rs 374.50 crore graft case, rejecting the CBI's plea that their full-fledged trial was necessary to prove the conspiracy charge against them.
The judge noted that it was a Cabinet approved project and "it would be unjust and illegal to pick and chose" the then electricity minister Pinarayi "and prosecute him for the wrong or illegality committed by the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB)".
The judge passed the orders on a CBI petition filed in 2014 challenging the discharge of Pinarayi and six others by a CBI court in Thiruvananthapuram in November, 2013 in the case related to alleged corruption in a deal signed by the KSEB with Canada-based firm SNC-Lavalin for the renovation of three hydel projects.
The court, however, allowed the CBI petition in part by setting aside the discharge of three other accused, who were officials of KSEB. However, the CBI will move the Supreme Court against the HC verdict.
Pinarayi, who was the seventh accused in the case, said the verdict clearly vindicated CPM's stand that it was a 'politically motivated' case to tarnish the party's image at the national level.
"The truth has won...," a jubilant Pinarayi told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram adding that he always believed in judiciary.
PB hails verdict
The party Politburo said in a statement that the case was sought to be used to "besmirch" the image of Pinarayi and the party and added the court verdict has "effectively exposed these efforts".
The deal was first signed in February 1996 as consultancy contracts, but after Pinarayi became the power minister in the then LDF regime headed by E.K. Nayanar, they were changed to supply contracts that provided for purchase of machineries from Canada.
There were nine accused in the case, including the Canadian firm and one of its senior executives. However, as the two did not appear in the court, the case was later split and proceedings began against the other seven accused.
They were charged with causing a loss of Rs 374.50 crore to the state exchequer.
The judge in his order said: "It is pertinent to note that the CBI has not alleged anywhere in the final report or other materials that the seventh accused had derived or obtained any sort of benefit out of the deal between the SNC-Lavalin and the KSEB.
"I find that the CBI picked and chose one minister alone for prosecution, on an allegation of conspiracy. There is no explanation why the CBI did not probe into the failure on the part of the other ministers who succeeded the seventh accused," the judge said.
Dismissing the CBI's contention that Pinarayi had suppressed some material facts and hastily obtained approval of the Cabinet, the judge said, "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 seventh accused from the Cabinet."
He noted that the cabinet had approved the proposal based on the reports submitted by the KSEB.
"Thus it was a Cabinet decision... it would be unjust and illegal to pick and chose the electricity minister and prosecute him for the wrong or illegality committed by the KSEB," the judge said.
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, he added.
The CBI, which had filed the charge sheet in the case, had argued that there was sufficient evidence to prove the charges against the accused.
The special judge had ruled that the CBI had failed to prove the charges of conspiracy and corruption leveled against Pinarayi and other accused.
Claiming that the conspiracy was hatched at different stages in awarding the contract, the CBI had assailed the lower court order.