The gutkha scam in Tamil Nadu

Gutkha files: DVAC probe to continue

The Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) will continue to probe the mystery over the missing documents in the gutkha scam even as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has formally taken over the investigation focussing more on the corruption angle in the case.

Though the disappearance of the documents is connected to the main case in many ways, the CBI’s First Information Report (FIR) does not make any mention of it.

Also, the central agency has filed the case against unknown Central/State government officials and others.

The DVAC had specifically named 17 lower-level officials/private prisons in the scam. The move has raised eyebrows since the usual practice of the CBI is to adopt the original FIR of the State agencies.

‘Limited probe’

“Our investigation will be confined to the specific references made in the FIR. The Madras High Court had directed the CBI to conduct investigation into all aspects of the offence of illegal manufacture and sale of gutkha, besides initiating action against those involved in the offence directly or indirectly, by aiding or abetting the offence or interfering with attempts to curb the offence...this is the scope of investigation as of now,” a CBI officer told The Hindu on Thursday.

Parrying questions on whether the disappearance of the confidential report of the Income Tax Department, which forms the basis of the case, from all government records would not amount to an interference, the official said that the agency would probe all angles in the case and, if need be, call for the documents.

The documents that have gone missing in the gutkha scam refer to the confidential report of the Income Tax department submitted to the Tamil Nadu government giving details of the beneficiaries who figured in the book of accounts seized from the premises of a gutkha manufacturer.

The Principal Director of Income Tax (Investigation) B.R. Balakrishnan had on August 12, 2016, met the then Chief Secretary P.S. Rama Mohana Rao in the Secretariat and handed over a report dated August 11, 2016 to him.

This was later confirmed by Mr. Rao in an interview to The Hindu. A copy of the same report was given to the then Director General of Police Ashok Kumar, who apparently confirmed the same to the DVAC in a statement.

However, when the scam was exposed by The Hindu in June 2017, the State government took a stand that no such report from the Income Tax Department existed on record.

Though Mr. Rao and Mr. Kumar admitted to have received the reports and forwarded the same to the then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa for appropriate action, there was no trace of the file movement either in the Chief Minister’s Office or the Secretariat.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 2:22:00 PM |

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