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Kerala high court clears CM Pinarayi in Rs 374 crore Lavalin scam case

The Kerala high court on Wednesday rejected a petition filed by CBI challenging a special court’s order acquitting Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the 20-year-old SNC Lavalin scam case.

india Updated: Aug 24, 2017 09:42 IST
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala,Thiruvananthapuram,CBI
The court said Pinarayi cannot be made accountable for loss to the exchequer and there is no evidence to prove he made financial gains from the deal.(HT File Photo)

The Kerala high court on Wednesday rejected a petition filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) challenging a special court’s order acquitting Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the 20-year-old SNC Lavalin scam case.

The court came down heavily on the CBI while clearing the chief minister, saying Pinarayi was made a scapegoat by the premier investigating agency. The verdict gives enough credence to opposition parties’ charge that the CBI is often used by the Centre to settle political scores with opponents.

The court said Pinarayi cannot be made accountable for loss to the exchequer and there is no evidence to prove he made financial gains from the deal. It, however, said three senior officials of the state electricity board discharged by a special court will have to face the trial.

The case relates to the awarding of a contract to the Canadian power giant SNC Lavalin to renovate three hydroelectric projects, a deal in which the state allegedly lost Rs 374 crore.

The CBI alleged when Pinarayi was the power minister in 1996, he, along with the other accused, hatched a criminal conspiracy to award a supply contract to SNC-Lavalin at an exorbitant cost. It added the Kerala State Electricity Board signed a memorandum of understanding without inviting tenders, thereby violating all rules and regulations.

“I am really happy truth has finally prevailed. There were many attempts to tarnish me and my party citing the case. The verdict will give me enough strength to carry out more people-friendly measures,” Pinarayi said.

In 2013, a special court exonerated him in the case that was later challenged by the CBI in the high court. Senior lawyer Harish Salve appeared for the CM.

The case was handed over to the CBI in 2005 by then chief minister Oommen Chandy.

The latest verdict will help him gain enough strength in the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and weaken the position of his arch-rival former chief minister VS Achuthanandan who often used this case to attack him.

First Published: Aug 23, 2017 18:11 IST