SC postpones final hearing for SNC Lavalin Case to May 1

The case has been adjourned 33 times. Meanwhile, CBI contends Kerala CM Vijayan should face trial, challenging his discharge by Kerala High Court

The SNC Lavalin Case against Kerala CM first came in the apex court in 2017 (photo: National Herald archives)
The SNC Lavalin Case against Kerala CM first came in the apex court in 2017 (photo: National Herald archives)

Ashlin Mathew

The Supreme Court on Tuesday, 6 January postponed the appeals in the SNC Lavalin case for final hearing on 1 May where the Central Bureau of Investigation has challenged the discharge of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan along with a few other officials in the case.

A bench of Justices Surya Kant and KV Viswanathan adjourned the hearing because the advocate on record for one of the respondents in the case, former Principal Secretary (Power) K Mohanachandran, Gaurav Agarwal, had been designated as a senior advocate. This meant they had to engage another AoR.

The bench initially posted it for July 2024, but the Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, who was appearing for CBI, requested for a date in March or April. But, the bench said the case would require at least two consecutive days of hearing and they didn’t have available dates due to many holidays in these two months and as a result the bench would take up miscellaneous cases.

The general elections are likely to be held around the country in the months of April and May. The case has been adjourned 33 times.

The corruption case against Vijayan is that during his tenure as the state power minister in 1996 in the EK Nayanar cabinet, the Kerala State Electricity Board’s (KSEB) suffered a loss of ₹86.25 crore as a result of the contract with Canada-based company SNC Lavalin for the renovation and modernisation of Pallivasai, Sengulam, and Panniar hydroelectric projects in Keraka’s Idukki district.

CBI said that Vijayan had travelled to Canada as a “guest” of Lavalin and in Canada, he decided to promote Lavalin, which was a mere consultancy firm retained on fixed-rate basis, from consultants to suppliers. Both the CBI Special Court in Thiruvananthapuram, and the Kerala High Court had discharged Vijayan of any wrong-doing.

The High Court had also upheld the discharge of two former KSEB senior officers—K Mohanachandran and A Francis. However, three other accused—M Kasthuriranga Iyer, G Rajasekharan Nair, and R Sivadasan—were asked to stand trial. Nair was then Member (Accounts) of the KSEB and Iyer was Chief Engineer (Generation) in the Board. They have appealed to the Supreme Court.

The CBI’s contention is that Vijayan should face trial and that the Kerala High Court’s decision to discharge the Kerala CM was not correct. The apex court had earlier warned the CBI that it would need to strengthen its appeal against Vijayan with “very strong arguments” as both the courts had discharged Vijayan as an accused. This case first came in the apex court in 2017

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