"The CBI has picked and chosen Pinarayi Vijayan. There is no prima facie evidence against him... There are subsequent power ministers who interacted with SNC-Lavalin. But CBI has chosen Pinarayi Vijayan alone as accused," the High Court said.
Soon after the verdict, Mr Vijayan said with a smile, "There has been a constant witch-hunt against me. They tried to witch-hunt CPM through me... Everyone knows that CBI did this because of the political pressure on them." His relief was evident as sweets were distributed to with mediapersons, soon after his address.
The verdict arrives at a time when the centre is being regularly accused by opposition parties of using the CBI to punish political rivals.
Mr Vijayan, 73, a top leader of the CPM, has been accused by the CBI of swindling Kerala of about 375 crores in the 1990s through hiring a Canadian firm, SNC-Lavalin, to repair and upgrade three major hydroelectric projects. At the time, Mr Vijayan was Power Minister in a coalition government anchored by the Left.
In 2013, Mr Vijayan was discharged by a CBI court along with six others from the case which said the agency had failed to provide any evidence of his role in the alleged scam.
The CBI then appealed against that verdict and lost its case today.
The verdict has come as a big boost to the Pinarayi Vijayan government, which has been under attack by the Congress-led Opposition, who has been alleging the health minister KK Shailaja of nepotism.