Justice N Anand Venkatesh said that the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC ) acted like a chameleon; it changed colour according to who was in power while taking a revision petition against former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam (OPS) on August 31 .
He took up a suo-motu revision petition in a disproportionate asset (DA) case in which OPS was set free by a lower court in 2012. The judge observed “ the previous three revision petitions against three sitting Ministers ( K Ponmudi, Thangam Thennarasu and KKSSR Ramachandran) had a pattern and said that pattern has started from this case. In every case the DVAC acts as a chameleon, it changes its colour as per who is in power. The most unfortunate is the court also failing to do its duties”.
Justice Venkatesh observed “citizens must never get the impression of courts being playfields for the rich and the powerful”. He criticised the DVAC sleuths for acting like “puppets in The Muppet Show” depending upon the political party in power. “ The Court has decided to test the correctness of all judgements passed so far by special courts for MP/MLA cases, across the State. In all the cases the DVAC has registered a case against who is in the Opposition party and later they came to power after 5 years, it intimated for re-investigation and files a final closure report which is unheard of in the criminal judicial system The court looks differently against MPs and MLAs and ordinary people, it is a shame to the criminal judicial system. If this situation to continues, we are failing our constitutional duties. Hence, we take up the criminal revision petition against a case that was closed a decade ago” he said.
Justice Venkatesh directed the registry of the Madras High Court to issue the notice to the accused including OPS that the revision petition will be heard on September 27 and to put the copy of this Suo-motu case before the Chief Justice for information.
OPS discharge pattern similar to DMK Ministers
Justice Venkatesh took up suo motu revision petition in a Disproportionate Assets case from which O Panneerselvam and his family, including wife Vijayalakshmi and son P Ravindranathkumar, were discharged. In 2006, the DVAC Madurai unit registered a case alleging that the family’s wealth went up by 10 times after OPS was the revenue minister in the AIADMK regime between 2001 and 2006. After probing for three years, during which he examined 272 witnesses and collected 235 documents, the Investigation Officer (IO) N Kulothunga Pandian filed a final report in 2009 before Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Theni, alleging that OPS’s wealth had increased 10 times during his ministership. After OPS became minister in 2011, the CJM continued to detain the records of the case despite the constitution of a special court in Madurai under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Subsequently, OPS filed a petition before the Theni court seeking further investigation. Accepting that, the judge passed an order for further investigation.
Justice Venkatesh observed that there was no prerogative for CJM to pass such an order under Section 173(8) CrPC. Later, the case was transferred to the CJM, Sivaganga by the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court. Meanwhile, the new IO, K Esakki Ananthan, quickly filed a new report giving a clean chit to OPS and family. Based on this, the court in Sivaganga discharged OPS and his kin from the DA case on December 3, 2012.
He said “[It is] manifestly clear that the so-called further investigation report was nothing but a product of a diktat from the government, the DVAC toed the line and decided to do the government’s dirty work. By exercising cognizance to the new final report, the CJM, Sivaganga, reflected the abysmal depths to which the special courts have sunk. After going through the details of the twists and turns taken by the case..
Justice Venkatesh pointed out “This court found this to be a well-orchestrated modus operandi to short-circuit corruption cases once the accused had come to political power in the state; these questionable practices, like cancer, cannot be dealt with at the level of tentacles and must be eliminated by the roots. The pattern that I have seen in this case is found in the cases of Ministers KKSSR and Thangam Thennarasu; whatever be their radical political differences, the accused political personages across party lines appear to be united in their endeavour to thwart and subvert the criminal justice system in this state.”
Justice Venkatesh said he had begun examining all special court verdicts due to complaints of many corruption cases against legislators having been withdrawn or watered down, during every change of regime in the State.
He said the High Court failing to exercise its powers despite noticing glaring illegalities would be causing a miscarriage of justice by perpetuating the illegalities.