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Kerala court exonerates Pinarayi in Lavalin case

KOCHI

In major relief to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the Kerala High Court on Wednesday exonerated him in the SNC Lavalin case, relating to an agreement inked 20 years ago with Canadian company SNC-Lavalin when he was the state power minister.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is planning to appeal against the single bench verdict.

After the verdict, a beaming Pinarayi said that it’s a happy moment for him and truth will always triumph.

“In this long journey of fighting this case, the truth has triumphed all the time…Today even the high court said that this was a political witch-hunt. Now that I am cleared, this is going to give me renewed vigour to take the state forward in all aspects of development,” added Pinarayi.

Delivering the judgement, Justice P Ubaid said it was not fair that only Pinarayi was being singled out though some other ministers had also handled the power portfolio.

While exonerating Pinarayi, the court pointed out that three Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) officials will have to face trial.

The case pertains to an agreement with SNC-Lavalin in 1997 to refurbish three hydropower projects, which allegedly caused a loss of Rs2,660 million to the state exchequer.

Pinarayi was the electricity minister in the EK Nayanar government when the government-run KSEB contracted SNC Lavalin to refurbish three hydropower projects in Panniyar, Chenkulam and Pannivasal, following a severe electricity shortage in Kerala.

Pinarayi was arraigned by the CBI as the seventh accused in the case, leading to political furore.

On November 5, 2013 the CBI court in the state capital exonerated all the accused, without taking the case for trial.

However a year later, the CBI filed a revision petition against the CBI court’s exoneration.

The case then went into a limbo with a few judges deciding not to hear the case. But in 2016, the trial started and Pinarayi brought in high-profile lawyer Harish Salve to defend him.

Pinarayi was forced to seek the service of Salve after the CBI brought in former comptroller and auditor general (CAG) Vinod Rai as a witness in the case.

The trial in the case got over in March this year and Ubaid posted the case for delivering the judgement. In the judgement, the CBI has been taken to task for hounding Pinarayi as there were other ministers also who had dealt with SNC Lavalin company.

Reacting to the judgement, Communist Party of India-Marxist state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the case was a political one.

Indo-Asian News Service