High Court says trial can continue in Puducherry case before the new judge

Ordering an enquiry by an officer of the rank of Assistant Commissioner into the controversial tapes allegedly containing a conversation about the payment of bribe relating to the Kanchi Sankararaman murder case, the Madras High Court on Monday said that the trial in the case before a Puducherry court can continue before the successor of the present trial Judge once he assumes charge.

The enquiry officer (EO) should hold a detailed enquiry and submit a report to the High Court's Registrar-General within three months from the date of receiving records from the High Court. Based on the police officer's report, the High Court would decide the further course of action.

The case relates to the murder of Sankararaman, manager of the Sri Varadarajaperumal Temple, Kancheepuram, on September 3, 2004. The Kanchi Sankaracharya, Sri Jayendra Saraswati, is among the 24 accused. On the Supreme Court's order, the case was transferred to the Principal Sessions Judge, Puducherry.

Originally, P. Sundararajan, an advocate, filed a writ petition seeking a direction to the High Court Registrar (Vigilance) to conduct an investigation by registering an FIR on his complaint of August 18 last year and submit a preliminary report about the alleged tapes and financial transactions discussed in it. If the report confirmed payment of bribes, then a re-trial of the murder case should be ordered by any other Judge in Puducherry.

On August 25 last year, the Madras High Court had granted an interim stay of all further proceedings before the Puducherry Court.

In its order, a specially constituted Division Bench of Justices K.N. Basha and N. Paul Vasanthakumar said Mr. Sundararajan had nothing to do either with the family of the deceased (Sankararaman) or in respect of the murder case. Further, the petitioner had come forward with a complaint making vague and bald allegations. He had not even stated in the complaint as to how and through what source he came to know about the alleged telephonic conversation purported to be between the trial Judge (T. Ramasamy), his aide/daughter and two others. In the complaint, the Kanchi Acharya's name had not been mentioned.

Added to such lapse, the petitioner had also not produced the CD either while preferring the complaint or at the time of enquiry. He had also not impleaded the trial judge against whom he raised a suspicion. The petitioner had not come forward with a definite and specific allegation. He had also not said who recorded the conversation and how it was done and circulated.

The enquiry officer was able to proceed only with the cooperation of S. Doraisamy, advocate. The forensic expert had opined that contextual discontinuity and abrupt ending of the conversation found in the audio files indicated the possibility of editing of the source audio files. The audio content could be authenticated only after examining the actual recording devices. The enquiry officer concluded that the material available and gathered did not contain anything relating to the facts in issue, which merited any further action.

Disposing of the petition, the Bench directed the DGP to nominate Sudhakar, a former Assistant Commissioner of Police or any other competent and specialised police officer in the cyber crimes unit not below the rank of AC to conduct the enquiry. The other terms for the enquiry included that the EO could take voice samples.

Mr. Sundararajan should extend cooperation to the EO. The officer is also authorised to collect the source audio file from television channels which telecast the conversation frequently.