In a major relief to Communist Party of India - Marxist state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, a Central Bureau of Investigation Court in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday dropped him and five others from the list of accused in the SNC-Lavalin corruption case dating to mid-1990s when he was the power minister.
Allowing the discharge petition of Vijayan and the others, CBI Special Judge R Raghu said the prosecution had failed to establish the fraudulent intention, abuse of official position and element of cheating attributed against them in awarding a contract to Canadian company SNC Lavalin to renovate three power plants in the state.
Observers termed the verdict as politically significant as it could pave the way for Vijayan's return to the electoral scene as the central player of the Left Democratic Front.
The corruption case has haunted the party and apart from political rivals, foes within CPI-M had often seized on it against Vijayan.
CPI-M welcomed the verdict, claiming it vindicated its stand that the charge against their leader was baseless.
The case pertains to an agreement with SNC Lavalin which allegedly caused a loss of Rs 374.50 crore to the exchequer. The final agreement with the company was signed when Vijayan was the power minister in the 1990s in the LDF ministry headed by the late E K Nayanar.
In June 2012, CBI had filed charge-sheets against nine accused in the case. Lavalin was named the sixth accused, Vijayan the seventh accused, and the company's former vice president Claus Trendl the ninth accused.