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Southern States - Tamil Nadu

Ashok Kumar shifted to Krishnagiri

By A. Subramani

CHENNAI April 5. In a significant move with judicial as well as political overtones, the Madras High Court today transferred the principal sessions judge, S. Ashok Kumar, to Dharmapuri district, along with 31 district judges including two special court judges. He has been directed to assume charge as principal district judge at Krishnagiri on May 2.

The April 4 notification has come as a surprise to judicial officers who are yet to complete the conventional three-year stint in their positions. Mr. Ashok Kumar, who has completed just 18 months in Chennai, is being replaced by the principal district judge in Salem, AR. Ramalingam.

Holding the fifth position of seniority among the district judges in the State, Mr. Ramalingam belongs to the Thevar community and hails from Madurai district. Significantly, the sessions judge for the bomb blast cases court at Poonamallee, R. Rajamanickam, who is being brought to preside over special court-II, is also a Thevar and he hails from Thanjavur district.

Though the High Court exercise involves 32 district judges, the debate revolves mostly round Mr. Ashok Kumar, since he has handled high-voltage cases involving the former Chief Minister, M. Karunanidhi, his successor, Jayalalithaa, and the Chennai Mayor, M.K. Stalin.

His transfer was rumoured immediately after the closely watched and widely reported Chennai `mini-flyover scam case', in which Mr. Ashok Kumar virtually smothered the CB-CID with pointed questions and caustic observations.

The other high-profile case which effectively put the judge out of favour with the ruling party was the `London Hotels case', in which he sent his junior court officer to the Poes Garden residence of Ms. Jayalalithaa and ensured that she was served the summons. Since last May he had received several telephonic threats and his son represented to the President and the then Governor for additional security.

As the second seniormost district judge in the State, Mr. Ashok Kumar will still be in the race for elevation to the High Court, unless the Collegium of High Court Judges, which is vested with the authority to nominate competent persons, decides otherwise.

He is facing a quo warranto petition on his declaration of religion at the time of appointment. This is pending before the First Bench. He has staved off a rape-cum-murder charge which was revived against him after over a decade.

Thursday's reshuffle has brought Mr. Anbazhagan, whose extension of service is due to be over this June, to special court-I. R. Ponnuchamy, II additional district judge in Madurai, has been brought to special court-III in Chennai.

R. Banumathi, who is the seniormost district judge, has been shifted from Tirunelveli to Salem to replace Mr. Ramalingam.

L. Rajendran, presiding officer of II additional labour court in Chennai, has now been posted to the Court for Exclusive Trial of Bomb Blast Cases at Poonamallee. The Administrator-General and Official Trustee in Chennai, V.K. Thirunavukkarasu, has been posted as Director of the State Judicial Academy.

Interestingly, three of the 32 transferred officers — A. Arumugasamy (CJM, Udhagamandalam), K.B.K. Vasuki (CJM, Coimbatore) and S. Thangakani (CJM, Namakkal) — are yet to get new postings.

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