Are you trying to drag on the Lavalin appeal: SC asks CBI

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The SC observation came when Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for CBI, sought an adjournment.

The Supreme Court on Friday wondered whether the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was trying to “drag on” its appeal against the discharge of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the SNC Lavalin corruption case.

A Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana expressed its displeasure when Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for CBI, sought an adjournment. Mr. Mehta asked the court to list the case on a non-miscellaneous day when fresh cases are not posted for hearing and the court is supposed to be relatively free to hear regular cases in detail.

“This may be taken up on a non-miscellaneous day…” Mr. Mehta suggested.

“Why on a non-miscellaneous day? If your intention is to drag on the case… if you want to drag on…” Justice Ramana addressed Mr. Mehta, who assured the court that the agency is not trying to “drag on”.

Finally, the court reluctantly asked Mr. Mehta to himself give a suitable date to the court master for the next hearing.

The case was finally posted for April first week, a month before the General Elections in mid May.

The appeals have faced continuous adjournments in the past several months.

The CBI has, in its appeal, contended that Mr. Vijayan should face trial in the case.

The premier investigation agency said Mr. Vijayan had travelled to Canada as a “guest” of Lavalin in 1997. It was there, in Canada, he had made the “crucial” decision to promote Lavalin, who was a mere consultancy firm retained on fixed-rate basis, from consultants to suppliers.

The corruption case concerns the loss of ₹86.25 crore in the Kerala State Electricity Board’s (KSEB) contract with Lavalin for the renovation and modernisation of Pallivasai, Sengulam and Panniar hydroelectric projects in Idukki district of Kerala.

Mr. Vijayan was the State’s power minister then.

The CBI said the decision of the Kerala High Court to discharge the Chief Minister was “not correct”.

The high court had on August 23, last year, discharged Mr. Vijayan and two former KSEB senior officers — K. Mohanachandran and A. Francis — of charges. Mr. Mohanachandran is a former principal secretary, Department of Power and Mr. Francis, the then joint secretary in the same department.

However, three other accused —M. Kasthuriranga Iyer, G. Rajasekharan Nair and R. Sivadasan — were asked to stand trial. Mr. Nair was then Member (Accounts) of the KSEB and Mr. Iyer was Chief Engineer (Generation) in the Board.

The accused who were ordered to stand trial have also appealed to the Supreme Court for parity of treatment. Their appeals was also listed on Friday along with the CBI appeal. They have argued that the case is based on the same facts and if Mr. Vijayan could be discharged, they should also be freed of allegations.

The apex court had earlier stayed the trial.

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