6 May 2009, ET Bureau
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala cabinet decision to go by the advocate general's advice not to recommend prosecution of CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan in the SNC Lavalin case has sparked sharp protests from the Congress-led opposition United Democratic Front.
The state cabinet on Wednesday decided to go by advocate general C P Sudhakara Prasad's advice against recommending prosecution of Mr Vijayan. The decision is considered a blow to the image of chief minister V S Achuthanandan who is seen to head a faction within the CPM inimical to the group identified with Pinarayi Vijayan.
The SNC Lavalin case pertains to alleged corruption in the award of a contract worth Rs 374 crore to the Canadian company for repair and maintenance works at three hydro-electric projects in Kerala. It was later assessed that the work hardly improved the efficient working of the projects.
Opposition leader Oommen Chandy said the decision not to prosecute Pinarayi Vijayan was deplorable, and that the UDF was now forced to meet the governor on the matter. The UDF has called for a hartal in the state on Thursday to protest the cabinet decision not to recommend prosecution of Mr Vijayan.
UDF convenor P P Thankachan said the opposition proposed to hold a series of protests against the government's move to assist Mr Vijayan's cause in the Lavalin case. Mr Thankachan said the advocate general was playing politics to save Mr Vijayan and that his advice to the cabinet was deliberately aimed at helping Mr Vijayan.
The CPM state secretariat contested the opposition claims, stating that the cabinet had taken the decision not to recommend prosecution of Pinarayi Vijayan, "based on the advice of the advocate general who is the responsible official as per constitution to give legal advice to the state government"