Tamil Nadu

HC to examine whether DVAC can give clean chit to Ministers without registering FIR

The Madras High Court on Wednesday decided to delve deep into the entitlement of Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) to conduct a full fledged investigation in the guise of holding preliminary inquiry into complaints lodged against Ministers and end up giving a clean chit to them without even registering a First Information Report.

A Division Bench of Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and R. Hemalatha requested senior counsel N.R. Elango, with vast experience on criminal law, to assist the court more as an amicus curiae than as a counsel for one of the petitioners before the court, and enlighten the court on the position of law as far as the scope of a preliminary inquiry was concerned. The request was made during the hearing of petitions filed by DMK organising secretary R.S. Bharathi and Arappor Iyakkam managing trustee Jayaram Venkatesan accusing Municipal Administration Minister S.P. Velumani of having entered into a criminal conspiracy with his benamis for obtaining civil contracts worth several crores of rupees.

Acceding to the request, Mr. Elango took the judges through various provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Supreme Court’s pronouncements in Bachan Singh (1992) and Lalita Kumari’s (2013) cases and said that conducting a detailed investigation without even registering a FIR, just because the accused happened to be a Minister, would lead to lawlessness. He also pointed out that Section 17A, introduced in 2018, into the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988 which contemplates an inquiry against public servants after obtaining prior sanction from the State government would come into play only if the alleged offence was related to any ‘recommendation or decision’ taken by the public servant in discharge of official functions.

“In the present case, the allegation against the Minister is that he entered into a conspiracy with his benamis and misappropriated public money. So, practically Section 17A has no application in this case,” the senior counsel said and pointed out that Mr. Bharathi had lodged a complaint against the Minister on September 10, 2018 much before the Section came into force.

On his part, advocate V. Suresh, representing NGO Arappor Iyakkam, said, ideally the previous approval for conducting an inquiry against the Minister must have been obtained only from the Governor and not the government. “We do not have faith in the government. That’s why we have filed a petition seeking to place the matter before the Governor,” he said.

Countering their arguments, Advocate General Vijay Narayan told the court that the counsel for the petitioners could not make such submissions without having challenged the validity of the approval granted by the government on January 8 to the DVAC to conduct a preliminary inquiry into complaints received against Mr. Velumani.

When Justice Sathyanarayanan wanted to know how could a preliminary inquiry could be conducted for nearly a year by examining as many as 117 witnesses and collecting 431 documents, the A-G replied that it was because the complainants had alleged irregularities with respect to about 400 civil contracts awarded by various municipal corporations.

State Public Prosecutor A. Natarajan said, “a preliminary inquiry is conducted to safeguard the interests of persons holding high office from motivated and false complaints.” Senior Counsel AR.L. Sundaresan, representing the Mr. Velumani in his personal capacity, also concurred with the submissions made by the SPP.

After hearing all of them, the judges adjourned the two cases to January 7, 2020.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2020 2:03:47 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/hc-to-examine-whether-dvac-can-give-clean-chit-to-ministers-without-registering-fir/article30342891.ece

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