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Kerala High Court upholds discharge of CM Pinarayi Vijayan in SNC-Lavlin case

LiveMint logoLiveMint 23-08-2017 Nidheesh M.K.

Bengaluru: In a major relief for Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the Kerala high court on Wednesday upheld his discharge in what is popularly known as the SNC-Lavalin graft case.

The verdict marks a milestone in the career of Vijayan as well as in the trajectory of the ruling Left Front. An adverse ruling would have made Vijayan face trial and generated pressure on him to step down, although he is not legally or constitutionally bound to do so.

The hearing followed a revision petition filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in January 2014.

The SNC Lavlin case was the proverbial Sword of Damocles hanging over Vijayan’s chief ministership, and its lifting is a major win for him.

Talking to reporters, Vijayan expressed relief and said the verdict confirms that dragging his name into the case was part of a political conspiracy hatched using the CBI.

Vijayan’s stewardship of the Left Front government is now more crucial than ever as the communists struggle to maintain their hold over electoral politics across the country.

According to regional media reports, the high court has partially allowed the CBI’s revision petition and asked for two other accused persons in the case to be booked.

However, in the case of Vijayan, the court admitted the argument of his counsel Harish Salve that the CBI had chosen a pick-and-choose method to build a case against him. The high court also said prima facia there was no case against Vijayan and that some of CBI’s arguments against him were unsubstantial, the reports said.

The high-profile case pertains to Vijayan allegedly securing political gains while awarding power contracts to Canadian company SNC-Lavalin during his term as electricity minister in 1996.

A Congress-government in 2005 referred the case to CBI and he was named seventh accused in the case in 2009. Vijayan kept out of electoral politics in the years while the case was on the boil, although he was the topmost office bearer, the state secretary, of Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM during 1998 to 2015.

The case was transferred to the CBI by a later Congress government in 2005 and in 2013, a special CBI trial court acquitted him of the charges, clearing the deck for his return to electoral politics. Wednesday’s verdict is upon the CBI’s appeal against this acquittal.

CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the judgment not only upholds Vijayan’s discharge but also gives him a clean chit in all the charges made by CBI.

Congress leader V.D. Satheeshan, on the other hand, said it is unfortunate that the high court acted like a trial court and delved deep into the merits of the case without proper time, whereas it was only supposed to look into the re-acquittal petition filed by CBI.

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