Madras High Court takes up two more suo motu revision petitions against discharge of Tamil Nadu Minister I. Periyasamy, former Minister B. Valarmathi from corruption cases 

With these two revision petitions, Madras High Court judge Justice Anand Venkatesh has taken up as many as six suo motu cases in the last month

Updated - September 07, 2023 10:14 pm IST

Published - September 07, 2023 08:04 pm IST - CHENNAI

Tamil Nadu Rural Development Minister I. Periyasamy. Photo: X@IPeriyasamymla

Tamil Nadu Rural Development Minister I. Periyasamy. Photo: X@IPeriyasamymla

Continuing the crackdown against legislators, Justice N. Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court has now taken up two more suo motu revision petitions against the discharge of Rural Development Minister I. Periyasamy of DMK from a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and former Social Welfare Minister B. Valarmathi of AIADMK from a disproportionate assets case.

With these two revision petitions, the judge has taken up as many as six suo motu cases in the last month when he had acted against the acquittal of Higher Education Minister K. Ponmudy and discharge of Revenue Minister K.K.S.S.R. Ramachandran, Finance Minister Thangam Thennarasu and former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam from similar corruption cases.

The present revision had been taken up against an order passed by an Additional Special Court for MP/MLA cases in Chennai on March 17, 2023. The special court had allowed a petition filed by Mr. Periyasamy this year and discharged him from a case booked by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) for having allotted a Tami Nadu Housing Board (TNHB) plot to former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s personal security officer (PSO) C. Ganesan, under the State government’s discretionary quota, when he served as Housing Minister in March 2008.

Also Read | Madras High Court judge requested to recuse himself from hearing revision case against T.N. Minister Ponmudy’s acquittal in disproportionate assets case

According to the prosecution, Ganesan was deputed as the PSO to the former Chief Minister when he was serving as Inspector in the security wing of the Special Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (SB-CID). Then, he was residing at a TNHB quarters, along with his family, allotted to him in his capacity as a police officer. However, he made a false representation to the government claiming that his family was residing in a private residential accommodation on payment of exorbitant rent and sought allotment of a TNHB plot by considering his impeccable service.

His request was considered and a high-income group plot was allotted to him under the Mogappair Eri scheme after the papers were signed by the then Housing Secretary R. Sellamuthu and approved by the Minister on March 10, 2008. Even before receiving the provisional allotment order, Ganesan had reportedly entered into an agreement with a real estate developer named K. Padma for developing the plot and a power of attorney was also executed in her name. Therefore, she too was roped in as one of the accused in the case along with the Minister and the police officer.

Justice M. Nirmal Kumar of the High Court had in November 2022 dismissed petitions filed by the Minister as well as Ganesan to discharge them from the case. Thereafter, the Minister filed another plea for discharge before the special court for MP/MLA cases early this year on the ground that the sanction to prosecute him must have been obtained from the Governor and not the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. He also argued that former Speaker P. Dhanabal had failed to apply his mind to the facts of the case before granting sanction for the prosecution against him.

Also Read | Those who cannot tolerate criticism are unfit to hold public office, says Justice Anand Venkatesh

The DVAC, on the other hand, vehemently opposed the plea for discharge by contending that the question of obtaining sanction would arise only at the time of taking cognisance of the charge sheet. Since Mr. Periyasamy was only an MLA and not a Minister when the charge sheet was filed, the sanction was obtained from the Speaker on December 17, 2012. It also contended that the Governor would be the competent person to grant sanction only if the accused had continued to be a Minister on the day when the court concerned had taken cognisance of the charge sheet.

However, after hearing both sides, G. Jayavel, the presiding officer of the special court, pointed out that Section 19(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 stated that whenever a doubt arises with respect to the sanctioning authority, such sanction should be given by the authority who would have been competent to remove the public servant from his office at the time when the offence was alleged to have been committed. Therefore, in the present case, since the accused was a Minister when the offence was alleged to have been committed, the sanction should have been obtained from the Governor, he held.

Though the DVAC had also contended that the Minister could not file a discharge petition after the commencement of trial, the special court relied upon a Supreme Court judgement in Nanjappa versus State of Karnataka (2015) to hold that the plea for discharge could be raised at any stage of the proceedings. “For the aforesaid reasons, this petition is allowed and the petitioner/A3 alone is hereby discharged from this case,” the special court had concluded.

Following his decision to test the correctness of every other order passed by the special courts for MP/MLA cases across the State, Justice Venkatesh has also taken up suo motu revision of an order passed by a special court in Chennai on December 24, 2012, discharging former Social Welfare Minister B. Valarmathi of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam from a disproportionate assets case.

The suo motu revision petitions against Mr. Periyasamy as well as Ms. Valarmathi have been listed before Justice Venkatesh on Friday for ordering notices to them as well as the DVAC.

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