Supreme Court accepts CPI-M leader Vijayan’s plea

New Delhi, Aug 31 ( The Supreme Court Monday admitted CPI-M Kerala state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan’s plea against the state governor’s approval to the Central Bureau of Investigation to prosecute him for his alleged role in a corruption case as a minister in 1997.

A bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice B.S. Reddy admitted Vijayan’s lawsuit directly for hearing, skipping preliminary formalities like issuing notices to various parties to the lawsuit and seeking their replies, as it involved some important questions of law.

The crucial questions that cropped up during the preliminary hearing included weather a government could be immune to the influences of the ruling party or its chief, and whether the CBI could directly approach the governor to seek sanction for prosecution of a former or sitting state minister without hurting the federal structure of the country.

“But what if the person is a general secretary, who controls the party? Can’t he influence the government?,” asked Justice Raveendran as senior counsel Fali S. Nariman, appearing for Vijayan, contended that as former minister Vijayan was in no position to influence the state’s council of ministers to impede sanction for the prosecution in the corruption case.

Nariman pointed out to the court that in the case of Vijayan, the CBI had directly written to the state governor seeking his approval under section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code for prosecution for his alleged corrupt deeds as power minister in 1997.

Nariman told the court that after the state governor received the CBI request, he referred the matter to the state chief minister, who in turn got the legal opinion of the state’s advocate general.

The advocate general opined that there was no case of corruption made out against Vijayan and accordingly the state’s council of minister advised the governor not to grant sanction for Vijayan’s prosecution, said Nariman. Yet the governor granted his sanction to prosecute Vijayan, Nariman said.

Responding to the court’s query as to whether the governments could be deemed to be immune to the influence of the ruling party or its chief, Nariman sought to assert that the constitutional provisions of the country ensure that the government remain immune to the undue influences of the ruling party.

Appearing for the state government, senior counsel Harish Salve contended before the court that the CBI directly approaching the governor and seeking his sanction for Vijayan’s prosecution did not auger well for the federal structure of the country.

He pointed out to the court that if the state government had advised the governor against Vjayan’s prosecution, it was not a situation without remedy.

The state government’s action could have been challenged in the high court and the governor should not have directly come forward to grant his sanction for prosecution ignoring the advise of the council of ministers, which is constitutionally binding upon him, he said.

Appearing for the state governor, former union law minister Shanti Bhushan defended the decision to grant sanction to prosecute Vijayan, saying that the governor was empowered to utilize his discretion.

He said the governor had given his approval for prosecution after taking appropriate legal advise from a retired high court judge.

Vjayan is facing prosecution for his alleged role in awarding a contract in 1997 for renovation and modernization of three hydro-power plants in the state to a Canadian firm, SNC Lavalin, without any competitive bidding.

The government’s official auditor later had found that the award of the contract by the Kerala State Electricity Board to the firm at the behest of the minister had resulted in a loss of Rs.3.5 billion to the exchequer.

The contract had allegedly been given to the Canadian firm ignoring a Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited report, which had said that the renovation of three power plants could have been achieved at a cost of less than Rs.1 billion.