The Tamil Nadu police on Thursday informed the Madras High Court of its decision to conduct a comprehensive investigation into three First Information Reports (FIRs) registered against Electricity Minister V. Senthilbalaji on the charge of having involved in a job-for-cash scam when he was the Transport Minister in Jayalalithaa’s Cabinet in 2014.
Justice G.K. Ilanthiraiyan was told that the Supreme Court had on September 8 this year reversed the High Court’s order quashing one of the three cases and observed, “the State ought to have undertaken a comprehensive investigation into the entire scam without allowing the accused to fish out of one case as if it was a private money dispute.”
Therefore, the police would conduct a comprehensive investigation in all three cases, the prosecution told the judge when petitions to quash the two other FIRs were listed before him. Additional Public Prosecutor E. Raj Thilak read out the orders passed by the Supreme Court and said the directions would be followed in letter and spirit.
Authoring the Supreme Court order, Justice V. Ramasubramanian had expressed surprise over the High Court having quashed one of the three cases in September last after accepting a compromise reached between the complainant and the accused. He also wondered how the Prevention of Corruption Act had not been invoked in that case.
The judge pointed out that the police had collected materials which disclosed that the Minister had in 2014 instructed government officials to forward all applications for the posts of driver, conductor, tradesman, junior engineer and assistant engineer to an e-mail ID operated by his personal assistant B. Shanmugam.
While 12,675 candidates attended the interview, appointment orders were issued only to 2,209 from the list given by the Minister, though there were 5,542 other eligible candidates. Further, the police had claimed that many of the note files with respect to the appointments were created without any date.
Therefore, “persons who claim to have paid money, but did not receive orders of appointment were not the only victims. Persons who were more meritorious but did not get selected, on account of being edged out by candidates who paid money, are also victims of the alleged corrupt practices if those allegations are eventually proved,” the judge observed.
Special Public Prosecutor for the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) N. Ramesh told Justice Ilanthiraiyan that the Supreme Court had also directed the police to get the stay vacated in the other two cases. He said the ED would be able to proceed with money laundering charges against the Minister only if the stay was vacated in those two cases.
Taking into consideration the seriousness of the issue, the judge said he would take up those cases for hearing on Friday itself. However, senior counsel S. Prabakaran, representing the Minister, requested for a short accommodation for the appearance of other senior counsel and got the hearing adjourned to September 29.