The Supreme Court will hear final arguments in the multi-crore SNC-Lavalin graft case in April. A bench of Justices N V Ramana and M Shantanagoudar said it will take it up in the first or second week of April after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, said it will have to be heard in detail and will require some time.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had earlier found himself in the dock in connection with the case, but a designated CBI court in Thiruvananthapuram discharged him and six other accused on November 5, 2013. The CBI then approached the Kerala High Court, which upheld the discharge of Vijayan and two others. However, it set aside the discharge of three of the accused and directed that the case against them will stand revived in the trial court.
Besides the CBI’s appeal challenging the August 23, 2017 decision of the Kerala HC, the apex court will also consider petitions filed by some of the accused. Congress leader V M Sudheeran too has filed a plea seeking impleadment. The case relates to the award for renovation and modernisation of three hydro-electric projects in the period 1995-1997. The MoU between the Kerala State Electricity Board and Canadian firm SNC-Lavalin was signed on August 10, 1995.
The scandal came to light following an audit by the Principal Accountant General of Audit (Kerala), who pegged the loss to the exchequer at over Rs 300 crores. The report of the PAG triggered a storm, which led to an inquiry by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB). On inquiry, the VACB found some substance in the report of the PAG as regards the suspicious circumstances, and elements of misconduct in the making of the contracts.
Subsequently, the CBI took over the probe following a HC order. In its case, the CBI had alleged that Vijayan, the then electricity minister, had shown undue haste and interest in the execution of the supply contracts in February, 1997, and the KSEB happened to execute such a contract at the instance of the minister in haste when SNC-Lavalin offered some grant for the construction of a cancer hospital – the Malabar Cancer Centre in Kannur.