June 8, 2009 11:29:09 am
In a new twist to the multi-crore SNC Lavalin case,Kerala Governor R S Gavai today gave sanction to the CBI to prosecute CPM politburo member and party state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan,the ninth accused in the case,overruling a state Cabinet recommendation against it. This will be the first time that a politburo member is to be prosecuted in a corruption case.
Raj Bhavan sources said the Governor called CBI officials and handed over a report substantiating the decision to grant sanction. The report,received by the CBI Thiruvananthapuram unit,was moved by the Chennai unit which had probed the case. The Governors decision will be conveyed to the Kerala High Court which,acting on public interest litigations,had asked the CBI to investigate the case.
After submitting the final probe report in the High Court last January,the CBI sought the Governors sanction to prosecute Vijayan who,in his capacity as Kerala Power Minister in 1997,had inked a deal with Canadian firm SNC Lavalin to renovate three power projects in the state. In 2001,the state Assembly subject committee found that the deal with Lavalin had caused huge losses to the government. A CAG report said the state lost Rs 374.5 crore in the deal.
Raj Bhavan sought the opinion of the Cabinet which moved the file to Advocate General C P Sudakar Prasad. After studying the case for nearly three months,Prasad advised against grant of sanction. A week before the election results,the LDF Cabinet recommended against prosecution of Vijayan. This was despite protests from Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan,a Vijayan rival.
But the Governor sought a fresh report from the CBI which rushed another dossier against Vijayan last week. By according sanction,the Governor has rejected the advice of the AG and the Cabinet. The CBI can now go ahead with the procedure to submit a chargesheet in court.
Neither Vijayan nor Achuthanandan reacted to the decision.
Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the case would be fought legally. We will look whether the Governor has the power to give sanction,overruling the recommendation of the Cabinet.
The CPM central leadership backed Vijayan,indicating that he need not step down since the party had already taken a stand that the case was politically motivated. The matter,sources said,would be discussed by the politburo and central committee when they meet later this month. Achuthanandans demand for removal of Vijayan from all party positions is pending before the politburo.
We had made our position clear that the CBI case against Pinarayi Vijayan is politically motivated. Unfortunately, the Governor has given sanction to prosecute him. We will face it politically and legally, politburo member S Ramachandran Pillai told The Indian Express.
Opposition parties led by the Congress demanded that Vijayan step down. The Governor has executed his Constitutional obligation, Congress leader Oommen Chandy said.
District committees of the CPM,who had earlier called a dawn-to-dusk bandh in Kerala on Monday,later limited it to a Black Day across the state,reportedly at the behest of the Central leadership. At several places in the state,CPM cadres burned effigies of the Governor. Activists of the SFI and DYFI marched to the Raj Bhavan in protest.
With Manoj C G in New Delhi
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