In August 2015, the Kerala government and Adani Group signed an agreement for the Vizhinjam International Deepwater Seaport Project close to the state’s capital. The agreement soon ran into controversy after the Comptroller and Auditor General released a highly critical report, in May 2017, questioning the project’s financials and the manner in which it was awarded. Two months later, the state government constituted a three-member commission to find out “the persons responsible for taking decisions against the interest of the state ... as reported by the CAG.” For almost a year, the commission heard submissions, counter-submissions and received affidavits from environmentalists, government officials and Adani’s representatives, in relation to the CAG’s findings. However, in an unusual move, just before its final hearing, the commission’s mandate was inexplicably changed. The commission was now asked to explore whether the CAG report in itself had any merit.
The CAG report claimed that the terms of the agreement between the state government and Adani resulted in undue gain to the private partner at the state’s expense. The three-member commission, headed by a retired Kerala High Court judge CN Ramachandran Nair, was initially constituted to assign responsibility and suggest legal action against the guilty and procedures to make good the loss sustained by the state. On 18 July this year, one week before its final hearing, the commission’s terms of reference, or ToR, were modified. The changed ToR was not made public even after the hearing concluded, depriving interested members of the public an opportunity to raise their concerns about the project. The commission is slated to submit its report in January 2019.