Harish Salve defends PInarayi Vijayan in HC, rubbishes CBI charge sheet
- 'The state was facing a power crisis then (1994-96) and the government was under pressure to do something to find a solution'
- Why G Karthikeyan was spared, quips Pinarayi Vijayan's eminent counsel
Former solicitor general Harish Salve appeared before Kerala High Court on Friday in defense of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the revision petition filed by CBI in the sensational SNC-Lavalin scam and rubbished the allegations of the investigating agency as a concocted story.
Rubbishing the CBI charge sheet in the case which enlisted Pinarayi Vijayan as the 7th accused, Salve argued that the agreement with the Canadian company SNC-Lavalin was aimed at salvaging the public sector power company Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB). Vijayan tried to enter into the agreement with good intentions. But the CBI was trying to cover up the benefits of the project by building a fake story around it. The state was facing a power crisis then (1994-96) and the government was under pressure to do something to find a solution, he said defending the renovation and modernization project undertaken by the KSEB in collaboration with SNC-Lavalin.
Pinarayi's renowned counsel also questioned why Congress leader G Karthikeyan, who was the power minister before Pinarayi Vijayan assumed office in 1996, was spared by the CBI in the case. The first MoU with SNC-Lavalin was signed in 1995 when Karthikeyan was the minister. Salve also dismissed the allegations of conspiracy in the deal
In a surprise move early this week, Pinarayi Vijayan decided to rope in Salve, who is known as the most expensive lawyer in the country, to defend his case in which an unfavourable comment or judgement could create problems for the Left government in Kerala. A CBI special court had discharged Vijayan in the case. The case pertains to corruption involving Vijayan, who was the Electricity Minister from May 1996 to October 1998.
It was alleged that the awarding of the contract for the renovation and modernisation of the Pallivasal, Sengulam and Panniyar hydroelectric projects to SNC-Lavalin, a Canadian company at a very high cost, incurred a huge loss to the state exchequer. The CAG had found that the state lost Rs.374.5 crores in the contract. In 2013, a CBI special court discharged Vijayan and six others by observing that the agency failed to prove that the accused received kickbacks from the Canadian company.
- 1995 August 10: Kerala Electricity Minister G Karthikeyan signed the first MoU with SNC-Lavalin.
- 1996 February 24: Electricity Board signed an agreement with SNC Lavalin for technical supports, consultancy and supervision.
- The agreement set a deadline of 3 years and fixed the consultancy fees at Rs.20.31 crores
- 1996 October: Pinarayi Vijayan visited Canada and signed another agreement with SNC Lavalin, changing the consultancy agreement to supply agreement of equipment.
- Besides consultancy fees, Kerala agreed to buy equipment at Rs.149.15 crores
- 1997: final agreement.
- Meanwhile, the public sector BHEL had offered the government to undertake the renovation work at a much lower cost. But this offer was trashed by the government.
- 1998 January: Electricity Board okays final agreement with a foreign aid of Rs.130 crores.
- 1998 March: State cabinet gives approval to the project in
- Even though SNC-Lavalin had offered to pay Rs 98.30 crore to Malabar Cancer Centre in Kannur, it got only Rs.8.98 crores.
- 2001 December: The first phase of the renovation project was completed.
- UDF comes up with the allegation that the project was smacked with corruption.
- 2003 March: Chief Minister AK Antony directs Vigilance to look into the allegations.
- 2005 March: CAG report alleges huge loss to the exchequer.
- 2006 February: Vigilance report recommends taking a case against 80 officials. Pinarayi Vijayan was not named in the report.
- 2006 March: Oommen Chandy government leaves the case to CBI.
- 2008 March: CBI interim report alleges huge loss to the state.
- 2009 January: CBI calculates 86.25 crores to state, lists Pinarayi Vijayan and 11 others as accused.
- 2013: CBI court discharges Pinarayi Vijayan in the case. CBI files a revision petition in Kerala High Court.