Tamil Nadu

HC grants ‘final opportunity’ to DVAC in case against Velumani

S.P. Velumani

S.P. Velumani   | Photo Credit: M_PRABHU

Minister denies the charge of having awarded contracts to his brother’s firm

Agreeing that registration of a First Information Report (FIR) is a must before conducting a detailed investigation into charges of corrupt practices levelled against Municipal Administration Minister S.P. Velumani in award of contracts by various corporations, the Madras High Court on Friday granted a “final opportunity” till December 18 to the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption (DVAC) to complete its preliminary inquiry.

A Bench of Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and N. Seshasayee observed in their interim order that “a detailed investigation cannot be done under the garb of preliminary inquiry.”

After perusing a status report filed by Director of Vigilance and Anti Corruption Vijay Kumar on the inquiry conducted so far, the judges directed him to make sure that the court-appointed investigating officer R. Ponni completed the inquiry within 48 days.

Preliminary inquiry

The order was passed after senior counsel N.R. Elango, representing complainant R.S. Bharathi of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and advocate V. Suresh, representing another complainant Jayaram Venkatesan of Arappor Iyakkam, contended that a preliminary inquiry must be limited to the extent of finding out whether the contents of the complaints had made out commission of a cognizable offence warranting registration of an FIR.

In the instant case, the complainants had made out a case for registration of FIR, through voluminous documents obtained under the Right to Information Act to prove that civil contract works worth several crores of rupees had been granted to select firms by Chennai, Coimbatore and other corporations, they said. It was stated that there was evidence of online tenders having been submitted from the same Internet Protocol (IP) address.

Countering the arguments, State Public Prosecutor A. Natarajan said there were divergent opinions among experts over the possibility of tenders having been submitted from same computers.

He said one of the opinions obtained by DVAC from a reputed electronics organisation stated that there was a possibility of a group of computers having same IP address.

The SPP claimed that the allegations against the Minister were not supported by any evidence.

“The complaints have been made purely with a political motive. It has been done solely to gain some attraction in the Press,” Mr. Natarajan said.

Strong response

The submission evoked a strong response from Mr. Suresh who retorted: “I don’t understand whether the law officer is appearing for the State or the Minister. He has been extremely uncharitable to the press. He cannot accuse the press of such things.”

It was followed by a heated exchange of arguments across the Bar.

Intervening at this point, Advocate-General Vijay Narayan said the preliminary inquiry was proceeding in the right direction.

Since 349 contracts awarded by various corporations between 2014 and 2018 were under the scanner and it was a laborious task to sift through the records besides obtaining expert opinion, he urged the court to grant at least two months’ time for the DVAC to complete its preliminary inquiry.

Earlier, a counter affidavit was filed on behalf of the Minister who denied all allegations levelled against him and claimed that his public image, earned through years of toil, was being damaged by vague and irresponsible allegations.

“A Minister is concerned with policymaking at the macro level. He is not associated with decisions taken by individual corporations. It is for those corporations to answer allegations of alleged irregularities,” he said.

Mr. Velumani clarified that he became an MLA for the first time only in 2006 whereas his brother Anbarasam Palanisamy had been a registered civil contractor with Coimbatore Corporation since 1999.

“The allegation that he secured projects on account of the fact that I am his brother is baseless and denied. Ever since I became an MLA, I ceased to have any business interest with any entity,” he added.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 9:14:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/hc-grants-final-opportunity-to-dvac-in-case-against-velumani/article29858476.ece

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