NEW DELHI: On Tuesday, the Supreme Court adjourned the again the SNC Lavalin corruption case appeals challenging the discharge of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. A Bench comprising Justices Surya Kant and Dipankar Datta postponed the hearing once again. Reportedly, the postponement was based on the request of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which stated that its lead counsel, Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, was “held up” in another case.
Previously, on July 18, Mr. Raju had similarly been engaged in another case, leading to the adjournment of the Lavalin case. In fact, the Bench had previously adjourned the case to September. The case reached the Supreme Court in 2017 and was listed 34 times in four benches in six years.
The corruption case revolves around the alleged loss of ₹86.25 crore in the Kerala State Electricity Board’s (KSEB) contract with Lavalin for the renovation and modernization of the Pallivasai, Sengulam, and Panniar hydroelectric projects in Idukki district, Kerala. Mr. Vijayan had served as the State’s Power Minister at that time.
The investigating agency claims that Mr. Vijayan had traveled to Canada as a “guest” of Lavalin in 1997. It was during this visit that he had made the “crucial” decision to promote Lavalin, which was initially a consultancy firm retained on a fixed-rate basis, to the status of suppliers. The CBI has argued that the decision of the Kerala High Court to discharge the Chief Minister was “not correct.”
In 2017, the Kerala High Court had upheld the discharge of Mr. Vijayan and two other officials, KSEB Secretary K. Mohanachandran and Joint Secretary A. Francis. However, the Supreme Court is currently considering the CBI’s petition along with the petitions of KG Rajasekharan Nair, former economic advisor of the Electricity Board, R Shivdasan, former chairman of the board, and Kasthuriranga Iyer, the former chief engineer.