Kochi: The long and eventful course of the Lavalin case proceedings saw many twists and turns and finally a perplexing scurry in search of a high court (HC) bench to consider the revision petition of the CBI against the trial court judgement acquitting chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and others. After knocking at several benches, the petition reached the fifth bench of the HC. Once again, the case shifted benches and finally to the seventh bench, which passed the judgement on Wednesday.
Recusal of three judges
The CBI submitted its review petition in the case before the HC on January 31, 2014. The first few days, it ran virtually from pillar to post for a bench to consider the petition. Three judges, who considered the case first - Justices K. Harilal, Thomas P. Joseph and M.L. Joseph - recused themselves from hearing it.
Fourth bench also skips
After that, the petition reached the bench of Justice N.K. Balakrishnan. He also recused himself from hearing it, by hurriedly calling the case files much before its turn and announcing that he was not willing to hear the case. Though it was not obligatory for a judge to explain the reason for recusal, the judge wrote: "I was a junior of Adv. C.K. Sreedharan, who was a Congress leader and a close friend of many ministers. Hence, it is not proper for me to consider the case."
After hurried moves, the fifth bench enters
Justice Balakrishnan, while recusing himself from the case, also directed to take the petition to another bench that afternoon itself after getting necessary orders from the chief justice (CJ). Following this, the CJ intervened and a fifth judge was found. Thus, the petition reached before Justice K. Ramakrishnan.
Turns again and the 7th bench!
With the procedural turn of judges, the case again changed hands. This time, it reached the seventh bench. In December 2015, when the UDF government was in power, director general of prosecution T. Asifali submitted a petition before the court seeking a fast disposal of the case. Justice P. Ubaid considered this plea. The court, primarily observed that there was substance in the arguments of the CBI and the government that the trial court went beyond its powers by acquitting the accused in the case without even a trial.
Observing that the CBI Court's decision to acquit the accused was doubtful, the HC decided to consider the review petition by the end of February 2016. Later, when the case came up for consideration on 25th of the month, the defendants argued that it was a move aimed at reaping political dividends ahead of the elections. The court clarified that there was no unusually pressing circumstances which called for an emergency hearing of the case at that point. The court should not be misused for political gains. With these comments, the HC postponed the case to May.
Later, as per the routine changes in the subject matter under consideration of each judge, the Lavalin case reached before the bench of Justice B. Kemal Pasha. But after the Christmas holidays of 2016, the case again shifted to the bench of Justice Ubaid as part of the usual course of procedure.