The Madras High Court Bench here on Tuesday dismissed a batch of revision petitions filed against the discharge of former Union Minister S. Raghupathy, Transport Minister K.N. Nehru, Revenue Minister I. Periasami, former Madurai Mayor P. Kulanthaivelu and their family members from disproportionate wealth cases.
Passing common orders, Justice C.T. Selvam also refused to entertain a revision petition filed against the acquittal of Cooperation Minister Ko.Si. Mani from a similar case. Most of the petitions were filed by All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) advocates from Pudukottai, Tiruchi, Dindigul and Madurai.
The judge agreed with the petitioners that there was no impediment for the High Court to exercise its powers to revise orders passed by lower courts. However, "This court must first be satisfied that persons who call upon it to exercise such power are not in the nature of wayfarers or interlopers," he said.
"It is only when the petitioners prove that they are genuinely interested in seeing matters to a lawful end that the court could embark upon on enquiry of whether it would be a fit case to exercise its powers. In the instant case, the petitioners who had nothing to do with the matter are fomenting litigation," he said.
Mr. Justice Selvam also said that the petitioners being advocates ought not to have filed the revision petitions as it would offend the provisions of the Advocates Act. "There can be doubt that the conduct of the petitioners is one of stepping into the shoes of the litigants thereby blurring the distinction between counsel and client," he added.
The judge recalled that the Supreme Court in K. Chinnaswamy Reddy’s case had held that the jurisdiction of the High Court to set aside an order of acquittal, even at the instance of private parties, should be exercised only in exceptional cases when there was a manifest error on a point of law and flagrant miscarriage of justice.
He pointed out that the wealth cases were not withdrawn by the prosecution. Instead, the accused were discharged by the lower courts after coming to a conclusion that there was no prima facie case against them. "An order of discharge is a most reasoned one which is arrived after total appreciation of the merits," he said.
Pudukottai Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) had discharged Mr. Ragupathy and his relatives on April 11, 2007. Mr. Nehru was discharged by the Tiruchi CJM on November 13, 2006 and Mr. Periasami was cleared of the charges by the Dindigul CJM on November 18, 2007. The Kumbakonam CJM had acquitted Mr. Mani on July 24, 2007.
Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption had registered the wealth cases during the AIADMK regime between 2001 and 2006. The Ministers were accused of amassing wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income during the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam regime in 1996-2001.