Suo motu revision pleas against Ministers | HC to take up all six cases for final hearing in February

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh directs K. Ponmudy, his wife, and DVAC to file affidavits by January 30, explaining whether they had any role to play in the transfer of a disproportionate assets case form Villupuram to Vellore

January 09, 2024 12:56 am | Updated 12:56 am IST - CHENNAI

The court will hear four of the six revision petitions at 3 p.m. from February 5 to 9.

The court will hear four of the six revision petitions at 3 p.m. from February 5 to 9. | Photo Credit: File photo

The Madras High Court on Monday decided to commence and complete in February the final hearing of all six suo motu revision petitions taken up by it against the discharge/acquittal of four incumbent Ministers, one former Chief Minister, and a former Minister from various criminal cases.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh clubbed the revision petitions against Revenue Minister K.K.S.S.R. Ramachandran, Finance Minister Thangam Thennarasu, former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, and former Social Welfare Minister B. Valarmathi since the issue to be decided was the same.

The judge pointed out that in these four cases, the accused had been discharged from disproportionate assets cases only because the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption (DVAC) had turned a volte face after every change of regime in the State and given them a clean chit.

Therefore, the judge said these four revision petitions would be confined to determining the legality of the closure reports filed by the DVAC after the filing of the charge sheet and the legality of the special courts for MP/MLA cases having accepted such closure reports to discharge the accused.

To strike a balance between the need to give priority to criminal cases against legislators and at the same time, not let these cases disturb the regular hearing of other cases, the judge decided to hear these four criminal revision petitions at 3 p.m. every day from February 5 to 9.

The judge asked the counsel in all four suo motu revision petitions to submit their counter affidavits, written submissions, and the case laws they would be relying upon by January 30, and ensure that there were no overlapping arguments during the February hearing.

Case against I. Periyasamy

In so far as the suo motu revision against Rural Development Minister I. Periyasamy was concerned, it had been taken up against his discharge from a case booked for alleged irregular allotment of a Tamil Nadu Housing Board (TNHB) plot to former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s personal security officer C. Ganesan.

In this case, the first discharge petition filed by the Minister was dismissed by a trial court on July 6, 2016, and the dismissal order was affirmed by the High Court as well as the Supreme Court on November 11, 2022 and December 12, 2022 respectively. Thereafter, during the trial, Mr. Periyasamy had filed a second discharge plea.

The same grounds that were canvassed during the hearing of the first discharge petition were raised for the second time and yet, a special court for MP/MLA cases had discharged him on July 20, 2023 on the ground that the sanction accorded for prosecution by the Legislative Assembly Speaker was invalid.

“This court has to now examine whether entertaining a second discharge petition midway, during trial, suffers from any illegality or grave procedural irregularity, particularly in the light of the Supreme Court decisions” the judge said, and decided to hear this suo motu revision petition at 3 p.m. on February 12 and 13.

Case against Ponmudy

The suo motu revision against former Higher Education Minister K. Ponmudy and his wife P. Visalakshi had been taken up against their acquittal from a disproportionate assets case by the Vellore Principal District and Sessions Court on July 28, 2023.

One of the reasons cited by Justice Venkatesh for taking up this suo motu revision was the mysterious way in which the trial was transferred from Villupuram to Vellore through an administrative order passed on July 8, 2022 by the then Chief Justice of Madras High Court Munishwar Nath Bhandari.

The administrative order had been passed at the instance of two other High Court judges who were holding the portfolio of Villupuram district judiciary. Therefore, Justice Venkatesh directed the two accused to file an affidavit by January 30, 2024 explaining whether they had any role in the transfer.

A similar direction was issued to the DVAC too and the judge wanted the State to file an affidavit by January 30, explaining whether the prosecution had faced any difficulties in conducting the trial before the Villupuram Principal District Court and whether it had any role to play in the transfer.

The judge decided to take up the final hearing on this suo motu revision petition at 3 p.m. from February 19 to 22. Since, a judicial officer (now retired), who had acquitted the accused, wanted the remarks made against her in the revision proceedings to be expunged, he decided to hear her on February 23.

Though senior counsel N.R. Elango, representing the accused, refuted the stand taken by the High Court’s Registrar General (R-G) that all documents related to the suo motu revision had been served upon the couple and insisted on perusing the entire file, the judge rejected the request.

“When the High Court, on the administrative side, through the R-G has taken a stand that complete copies of entire proceedings have been furnished to the accused, the same has to be taken to be correct, and it is not necessary to once again go through this formality. Hence, the request is hereby rejected,” he wrote.

Impleading petition

Justice Venkatesh, further, dismissed two applications taken out by a private entity named Anti Corruption Movement. One application was to get impleaded in the suo motu revision petitions and assist the court in the hearing and the other was seeking copies of all records related to the revision petitions.

Pointing out that courts have time and again frowned upon interlopers and wayfarers from seeking to intermeddle in criminal matters, the judge said: “A criminal court is certainly not an open theatre for publicity seekers to display their creative talent.”

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