Leveraging its familiar narrative, the DMK has resorted to casting aspersions on the judiciary, employing quotes from EV Ramasamy Naicker, popularly known as Periyar. The Madras High Court recently pronounced jail terms and imposed fines of Rs 50 lakh each on K Ponmudi, one of the senior-most DMK ministers, and his wife. This development prompted the DMK to pivot its strategy and target the judiciary, raising questions about the motivations behind the court’s decisions.
In a seemingly coordinated effort, the DMK’s IT wing initiated a campaign against the judiciary, using a quote attributed to EV Ramasamy Naicker, a figure revered by the party. The post shared by the DMK IT Wing included the quote, “The day we struggle and bring laws, the paarpaan (a derogatory term for Brahmins) will be the one who will keep the court under his control!” The choice of words in the post appeared to be a veiled attempt to undermine the credibility and independence of the judiciary.
Anti-Brahminism Narrative Unleashed
Known for employing anti-Brahminism as a potent tool in its political discourse, the DMK has a history of using caste-based narratives to garner support. By associating the quote with Periyar, the party aims to align its campaign against the judiciary with a broader anti-Brahmin sentiment, potentially influencing public perception.
This shift in focus from a direct confrontation with the Centre to targeting the judiciary indicates the DMK’s evolving strategy in response to legal setbacks. By questioning the judiciary’s independence, the party seeks to divert attention from the legal troubles faced by its leaders and create a narrative that frames judicial decisions as biased or influenced.
— DMK IT WING (@DMKITwing) December 24, 2023
The DMK’s campaign against the judiciary introduces a new layer of complexity in the already charged political landscape. The use of anti-Brahminism adds a contentious dimension to the discourse, raising concerns about the potential impact on public trust in the judicial system and the broader implications for the democratic process.
The recent Madras High Court verdict in the Disproportionate Assets (DA) case involving senior DMK minister K Ponmudi and his wife, coupled with the appointment of Justice N Anand Venkatesh to handle MP/MLA portfolios, has left the DMK in a state of anxiety. The unfolding events, potentially sealing the fate of several senior leaders, have sparked concerns within the party about impending legal consequences that may lead to imprisonment.
The DMK is reeling from the repercussions of the Madras High Court’s judgement in the DA case, resulting in jail terms and substantial fines for K Ponmudi and his wife. The prospect of senior leaders facing imprisonment has heightened fears within the party, with speculation that a dedicated facility may be required to accommodate DMK functionaries facing legal consequences.
Adding to the DMK’s unease is the assignment of Justice Anand Venkatesh to handle MP/MLA portfolios. Justice Venkatesh’s reputation for his impartiality and commitment to justice has earned praise, even from Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud. The judge’s previous commendation for his handling of cases involving sitting ministers further compounds the party’s apprehensions.
Suo Motu Revisions Against Ministers
Justice Anand Venkatesh, known for initiating suo motu revision petitions against sitting and former ministers, will resume hearing such cases after a three-month break. Among the leaders under scrutiny are Finance Minister Thangam Thennarasu, I Periyasamy, KKSSR Ramachandran, former CM O Pannerselvam, and former AIADMK minister Valarmathi. The judge has criticised the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC), stating it acts in accordance with the colours of the ruling regime.
The DMK’s nervousness stems from the realisation that the new year may bring legal challenges that could prove detrimental to the party’s image ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The fear of more leaders facing legal consequences looms large, amplifying concerns about the party’s future prospects.
Justice Anand Venkatesh’s proactive approach in revisiting cases against ministers, combined with his reputation for judicial integrity, raises the stakes for the DMK. The judge’s focus on ensuring justice irrespective of political influence poses a potential threat to leaders entangled in legal controversies.
BREAKING Justice N Anand Venkatesh of #MadrasHighCourt to hold MP/MLA portfolio from January 2, 2024. All suo motu revision petitions against sitting & former Ministers will get listed before him once again after a break of 3 months when he was sitting in Madurai Bench @THChennai
— Mohamed Imranullah S (@imranhindu) December 22, 2023
In a significant development, Chief Justice Sanjay V. Gangapurwala of the Madras High Court, serving as the master of the roster, has decided to reassign the MP/MLA portfolio to Justice N Anand Venkatesh. This decision follows a three-month hiatus starting from October 3, 2023. The move is crucial, considering the mounting anxiety among lawyers and the judiciary regarding the handling of suo motu revision petitions against MPs and MLAs.
Portfolio Rotation and Pending Cases
Justice Anand Venkatesh was originally assigned to the Madurai bench, while Justice G. Jayachandran took over the MP/MLA portfolio for three months from October 3, 2023. However, none of the six suo motu revision petitions has been resolved during this period. This delay has raised concerns about which judge would assume the MP/MLA portfolio during the next three-month roster beginning January 2, 2024.
The DMK and its ally, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), have cast aspersions on the judge who delivered the verdict in the Disproportionate Assets (DA) case involving senior DMK minister K Ponmudi. VCK head Thirumavalavan expressed concerns about judges being ‘Sanatanised’ and questioned the impartiality of the judiciary.
DMK’s Allegations and Supreme Court Approach
DMK MP and the party’s legal wing secretary, NR Elango raised questions about Justice Jayachandran’s past role as the Law Secretary during the AIADMK regime. Elango stated that they would take up this issue in the Supreme Court, emphasising that even if Justice Jayachandran had known about his role earlier, he wouldn’t have recused himself from the case.
Thirumavalavan, the VCK leader and Chidambaram MP, criticised the norm that judges and judgements cannot be criticised. He highlighted instances where, in the name of justice, grave injustices have allegedly occurred, citing cases such as Ayodhya and the reorganisation of Jammu & Kashmir. Thirumavalavan contended that the judiciary’s verdicts are subject to scrutiny and criticism.
BJP’s Defence of Justice Jayachandran
Responding to the accusations against Justice G. Jayachandran, TN BJP Annamalai defended the judge, emphasising that he was a government official and not an AIADMK functionary. Annamalai pointed out that several individuals with political leanings become judges but act impartially after assuming the role.
The reactions from DMK, VCK, and BJP reflect the contentious debate over the alleged political leanings of judges and their ability to deliver impartial judgements. The exchange highlights the delicate balance between an individual’s past associations and the expectation of unbiased judicial decisions.
Significance of Portfolio Allocation
The reshuffling of the MP/MLA portfolio is of significant importance as it influences the handling of suo motu revision petitions against sitting and former ministers. Justice Anand Venkatesh’s return to this role, known for his proactive approach, raises expectations and concerns depending on one’s political perspective.
The DMK’s announcement of taking the issue to the Supreme Court indicates the heightened political and legal sensitivity surrounding the DA case and related matters. As the legal battles unfold, the Supreme Court’s intervention may become a pivotal moment in determining the trajectory of these cases.
Judiciary as the Pillar of Democracy
The controversy underscores the critical role of the judiciary as one of the four pillars of democracy. The judiciary’s commitment to rooting out corruption and delivering impartial justice remains pivotal, especially in cases with political ramifications.
As the DMK intensifies its rhetoric against the judiciary, observers keenly watch how this narrative unfolds and its repercussions on both the political and judicial spheres in Tamil Nadu.