The gutkha scam in Tamil Nadu

FIR in gutkha scam has no mention of Minister, two DGP-rank officers

The Opposition too had demanded action against the corrupt in the gutkha case.  

The Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) has registered an FIR in the gutkha scam naming 17 middle-level officials belonging to various departments in the State. After preliminary investigation, it has been concluded that there is prima facie evidence of bribery in the case, according to sources.

While there was no mention of a State Minister or two Director-General of Police (DGP) rank officers who allegedly received payments from the gutkha manufacturer, the agency had sent a detailed questionnaire to the then Principal Director of Income Tax (Investigation) B.R. Balakrishnan, former Chief Secretary P.S. Rama Mohana Rao and former DGP Ashok Kumar seeking details of the case. The accused have been booked under Section 109 [dealing with punishment of abetment] of the IPC and Section 13 (1) (a) and (d) and 13(2) [dealing with “criminal misconduct by a public servant”] of the Prevention of Corruption Act, an official handling the case said, adding that “detailed investigation” was on.

As for allegations about the involvement of a Minister and top officials, he said a clear picture would emerge before filing a chargesheet, which was likely in six months.

Pointing out that those named in the FIR are from the departments such as Police, Chennai Corporation, Food Safety and Drug Administration and Commercial Taxes, all from the State government, besides the Central Excise, the official said that the DVAC had received a reply from Mr. Balakrishnan to its questionnaire. He refused to divulge the names of the accused persons.

How it all started

The genesis of the case can be traced to a letter sent by Mr. Balakrishnan as Principal Director of I-T (Investigation) in August 2016 to the then Chief Secretary Mr. Rama Mohana Rao and the then DGP Ashok Kumar following a search in Red Hills, on the northern outskirts of the city, on the premises of a leading Chennai-based gutka manufacturer. The books of accounts seized from the premises of the suspects revealed payouts to the tune of ₹39 crore made to a Minister, at least three IPS officers and many other Central/State government employees. However, the crucial papers went missing both in the offices of the Chief Secretary and the DGP.

The issue hit the headlines after The Hindu exposed the issue with documents, triggering protests from the opposition parties who demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the scam.

Following the submission of Chief Secretary Girija Vaidhyanathan to the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court that no communication dated July 9, 2016 was received by the State government from the I-T department, the DVAC, as directed by the court, decided to launch an investigation into the “missing documents.”

While one team, led by an additional superintendent of police, is looking into this issue, another team has been entrusted with the task of collecting all relevant documents from the I-T department. A questionnaire has been sent to Mr. Rao, who retired in September, and Mr. Ashok Kumar. “We are awaiting their response,” the official says, adding that “if required, they will be called for interrogation.”

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 10:50:28 PM |

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