T.N. Minister Periyasamy suo motu revision | Madras High Court sets aside his discharge from irregular plot allotment case

Public should not be led to believe that a trial against a politician in this State is nothing but a mockery of dispensing criminal justice, says Justice N. Anand Venkatesh

February 26, 2024 11:17 am | Updated 08:23 pm IST - CHENNAI

Rural Development Minister I. Periyasamy. File

Rural Development Minister I. Periyasamy. File | Photo Credit: G. Karthikeyan

“The public should not be led to believe that a trial against a politician in this State is nothing but a mockery of dispensing criminal justice,” the Madras High Court observed on February 26 and set aside the discharge of Rural Development Minister I. Periyasamy from an alleged irregular government plot allotment case.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh held the trial court’s March 17, 2023 discharge order was “completely specious and perverse,” and said: “The legitimacy of the administration of criminal justice will be eroded and the public confidence will be shaken if MLAs and Ministers, facing corruption cases, can short circuit criminal trials.”

After finding the criminal case had been transferred from a special court for MP/MLA cases to the special court for Prevention of Corruption Act cases after the discharge of the Minister last year, the judge ordered re-transfer of the case back to the special court for legislators within a month.

Upon such transmission, the Minister and two other accused (former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s personal security officer C. Ganesan to whom the plot was allotted in 2008 and real estate developer Kavitha to whom the former had conveyed the plot) were ordered to appear before the special court on March 28.

The three accused were also directed to furnish a bond for ₹1 lakh each along with two sureties and cooperate in speedy trial by cross examining the witnesses on the same day when they get examined by the prosecution. “If the accused adopt any dilatory tactics, it is open to trial court to remand them to custody,” the judge said.

Day-to-day trial

He ordered the trial to be conducted on a day-to-day basis as far as practicable, without being influenced by the observations made by him in the present suo motu revision proceedings, and completed before July 31. A compliance report should be sent thereafter to the High Court’s Registrar General.

The judge had, last year, taken up as many as six suo motu criminal revisions against the acquittal/discharge of different politicians from corruption cases. Though the revision against Mr. Periyasamy was not the first to be taken up, it turned out to be the first in which the verdict was delivered after a comprehensive hearing.

The special court for MP/MLA cases had discharged the Minister on the main ground that the sanction to prosecute him must have been obtained from the Governor and not the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. However, Justice Venkatesh found the reasoning to be completely incorrect.

The judge said, though Mr. Periyasamy was the Housing Minister in 2008 when the offence was committed, he was only a MLA in 2013 when the special court took cognisance of the offence after the registration of the case in 2012 and therefore the sanctioning authority was only the Speaker and not the Governor.

Recalling that Mr. Periyasamy’s first discharge petition on the same ground was dismissed in 2016 itself, the judge said, the accused, who became Minister once again in 2021, had “committed the grossest abuse of process by seeking discharge for the second time in 2023 with the obvious intent of scuttling the trial.”

Expressing surprise over the special court too having discharged him “at lightning speed” within 21 days of filing the second discharge petition in 2023, the judge wrote that the discharge order suffered from “manifest perversity and gross illegality” besides being “tainted by procedural impropriety.”

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