He travelled to Canada as ‘guest’ of firm

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday told the Supreme Court that Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan should face trial in the SNC Lavalin corruption case.

The premier investigation agency said Mr. Vijayan had travelled to Canada as a “guest” of Lavalin in 1997. It was there, in Canada, that he had made the “crucial” decision to promote the firm, which was a mere consultancy firm retained on fixed-rate basis, from consultants to suppliers.

The corruption case concerns the loss of ₹86.25 crore in the Kerala State Electricity Board’s (KSEB) contract with Lavalin for the renovation and modernisation of the Pallivasai, Sengulam and Panniar hydroelectric projects in Idukki district of Kerala. Mr. Vijayan was the State’s Power Minister then.

In 1995, Lavalin had only signed a memorandum of understanding with the State government. Consultancy agreements were signed on February 24, 1996. On February 10, 1997, the consultancy agreements were changed to full-fledged supply contracts “solely at the behest” of Mr. Vijayan, the CBI submitted in a 12-page affidavit in the Supreme Court.

The CBI said the decision of the Kerala High Court to discharge the Chief Minister was “not correct”.

The High Court had on August 23, 2017, discharged Mr. Vijayan and two former KSEB senior officers — K. Mohanachandran and A. Francis — of all charges. Mr. Mohanachandran is a former Principal Secretary, Department of Power, and Mr. Francis, the then Joint Secretary in the same Department.

However, three other accused — M. Kasthuriranga Iyer, G. Rajasekharan Nair and R. Sivadasan — were asked to stand trial. Mr. Nair was then Member (Accounts) of the KSEB and Mr. Iyer was Chief Engineer (Generation) in the Board.

Plea of co-accused

The accused who were ordered to stand trial appealed to the Supreme Court for parity of treatment. They argued that the case was based on the same facts and if Mr. Vijayan could be discharged, they should also be freed of the allegations.

The CBI also went to the apex court with its own appeal against the High Court decision. The agency said all the accused in the Lavalin case, including Chief Minister Vijayan, should be tried.

The agency questioned how the High Court could hold that there was criminal conspiracy on one hand but nevertheless discharge select accused persons.

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