Special Correspondent

Methodology adopted by prosecution erroneous: judge

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has upheld the discharge of Minister for Higher Education K. Ponmudi from a disproportionate assets case, registered against him for allegedly amassing wealth when he held office between 1996 and 2001.

Justice S. Ashok Kumar upheld an order passed by the Villupuram Chief Judicial Magistrate/Special Judge discharging Mr. Ponmudi from the case.

The impugned order was passed in July 2004. Besides Mr. Ponmudi, the other accused are his wife, mother-in-law and two friends.

"It is not fair on the part of the investigating officer to suppress materials, which may be favourable to the accused," he said.

"The prosecution cannot, at its sweet will and pleasure, either choose or suppress materials collected during investigation to suit its convenience to lure the court to frame charges against the accused."

Pointing out that the independent income of the co-accused had been shown as the income of the Minister, the Judge said, "The methodology adopted by the prosecution to establish the disproportionate assets with reference to the known source of income is absolutely erroneous."

As regards his friends, who were trustees of the Siga Educational Trust, he said, "The Trust is the absolute owner of the properties, and the trustees can never be called absolute owners. The theory of benami is totally alien to the concept of Trust, and it is not legally sustainable to array the trustees as holders of the properties or that they are the benamis of the Minister."

Mr. Justice Ashok Kumar said it was evident that the co-accused possessed enough funds for acquiring properties, and Mr. Ponmudi had nothing to do with those properties and he could not be called upon to explain the source of income or the acquisition made by others.

He also pulled up the prosecution for having dropped the names of the Minister's son as accused because he had his own source of income, and that the trustees had been arrayed as accused with a view to boost the value of assets.