SC posts CBI appeal challenging discharge of Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan

New Delhi, Feb 6 (UNI) The Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned CBI’ s appeal against the discharge of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and certain others in the SNC Lavalin case for a final hearing on May 1.

The matter relates to an appeal filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) challenging the Kerala High Court order which had upheld the discharge of Vijayan and certain officials, in the Canadian Firm SNC Lavalin case.

A division bench comprising Justice Surya Kant and Justice KV Viswanathan adjourned the hearing after being told that Advocates-on-Record of some of the respondents have been recently designated as Senior Advocates, necessitating the need for engaging other AoRs.

Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat, appearing for Congress leader and former Kerala Opposition Leader VM Sudheeran, opposed the adjournment saying that the matter has been adjourned 30 times till now. He alleged that the CBI has lost interest in the matter and that most adjournments were at their instance.

Countering Kamat’s allegations, The Additional Solicitor General SV Raju said that the CBI is taking the matter very seriously and they are ready to argue on any date fixed by the Court. He informed the bench that since Gaurav Agarwal, the Advocate-on-Record for one of the respondents, former Principal Secretary (Power) K Mohanachandran, has been designated as a Senior Advocate, another AoR needed to be engaged.

The matter pertains to a contract awarded to Canadian company SNC Lavalin for the renovation and refurbishment of 3 hydroelectric projects in Kerala when Vijayan was Minister of Power (in 1996-98). CBI alleged that the contract in question resulted in a loss of Rs.86 crores and a chargesheet was filed against Vijayan and a few others.

In November 2013, a Special CBI Court at Thiruvananthapuram discharged Vijayan and other officials charge-sheeted in the case. Four years later, the Kerala High Court upheld the discharge of Vijayan and 2 former Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) officials but allowed the agency’s plea against the discharge of 4 others.

Against the High Court order discharging Vijayan and others, the CBI moved the top court in 2018. The officials who were not discharged in the case = former KSEB Chief Account Officer K.G. Rajasekharan Nair, former KSEB Chairman R Sivadasan and former KSEB Chief Engineer Kasthuri Ranga Iyer – also approached the Supreme Court. In CBI’s appeal as well as petitions filed by Nair, Sivadasan, and Iyer, the court granted them leave to appeal today.

The bench said it would post the matter for final hearing and listed it in July 2024. At this point, ASG Raju requested for an early date, either in March or April.

The bench showed its inability to post the matter early as there were no two consecutive hearing days for the matter and the same may not be available in March and April because of several holidays. It then agreed to post the matter on May 1. Connected appeals filed by accused officials seekING discharge in the case will also be heard along with the CBI’s appeal.

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