The New Year brings unwelcome developments for the DMK, as the Madras High Court’s rejection of the Tamil Nadu’s ruling DMK government’s plea to halt National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) probe paves the way for the investigation to proceed.
Adding to the challenges, the High Court has announced the commencement of the final hearing in February for six suo motu revisions initiated by Justice Anand Venkatesh. These revisions concern the acquittal or discharge of four incumbent ministers – Thangam Thennarasu, K Ponmudi, KKSSR Ramachandran, I Periyasamy – along with former CM O Panneerselvam and AIADMK’s former Minister Valarmathi in various criminal cases.
Justice Venkatesh has consolidated the revision petitions against several ministers, emphasizing a common issue related to their discharge from corruption cases due to changes in the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption’s (DVAC) stance with each regime shift.
Specifically, the suo motu revision targets Ponmudi and his wife P Visalakshi, with the court instructing them to submit an affidavit by the end of the month, explaining their involvement in a transfer. DVAC is also required to file an affidavit regarding the matter.
The impending legal proceedings intensify the scrutiny on DMK ministers, raising concerns about the potential political implications as the High Court gears up for a comprehensive examination of the cases in question.
The Madras High Court, under the stewardship of Justice SM Subramaniam, issued a directive on January 10, 2024, instructing the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) to reissue summons in the Murasoli Trust land dispute. This ruling comes in response to the Trust’s attempt to restrain the NCSC from investigating a complaint filed by TN BJP state secretary, Prof Rama Srinivasan.
On January 4, 2024, the High Court had previously directed the state government to provide revenue documents pertaining to Murasoli Trust’s land in the Panchami land case. The Trust, aligned with the DMK, argued that there was insufficient evidence supporting the Panchami land claim and sought to challenge Srinivasan’s standing. They also questioned the political bias of the former NCSC vice-chairman, L Murugan.
In response, the NCSC defended its duty to investigate Scheduled Caste deprivation and asserted the need for an impartial inquiry. On January 5, the Tamil Nadu government informed the High Court, based on revenue department records, that the land in question belonged to Anjugam Publications, countering the Panchami land claims.
RS Bharathi, DMK organisation secretary, challenged the National Commission for SC/ST’s notice on the alleged Panchami land issue. The Additional Advocate General refuted the claims, asserting Anjugam’s ownership and accusing political misuse of the commission. The Murasoli Trust’s counsel expressed frustration over a prolonged, publicity-driven delay in the proceedings.
Justice SM Subramaniam’s ruling on January 10 invalidated the previous summons issued by ex-NCSC Vice-Chairman L Murugan, who is now a Central Minister. The judge emphasised the need for a fresh notice and urged the NCSC to conduct an unbiased inquiry. Taking into account the Tamil Nadu government’s documents and BJP’s R Srinivasan’s complaint, the judge dismissed RS Bharathi’s plea to annul the 2019 summons.
Justice Subramaniam stated, “Such disputed facts relating to immovable properties cannot be adjudicated in the present writ proceedings. The complaint before the NCSC is that the Panchami lands allotted to scheduled caste members were transferred to other persons in an illegal manner. Thus, an investigation and an inquiry by the commission is warranted for the purpose of ascertaining the truth regarding the character of the land in safeguarding and protecting the interest of the scheduled caste members.”
The court’s decision, delivered by Justice SM Subramaniam, nullified previous notices from the commission, citing the change in the third respondent, L Murugan’s position from vice-chairman to Minister.
Addressing objections against the commission’s involvement in property rights investigations, Justice Subramaniam underscored the primary duty of the NCSC to safeguard the rights and socio-economic development of Scheduled Castes (SCs) under Article 338(5)(b). He emphasized that probing complaints related to the deprivation of SCs’ rights and safeguards falls squarely within the commission’s ambit.
Dismissing concerns about the commission exceeding its powers, the judge clarified that mere presumptions are not grounds for a writ of prohibition. This particularly pertained to the plea by RS Bharathi, DMK organization secretary, to halt the commission from hearing complaints.
TN BJP chief K Annamalai took to social media to address the court’s decision, highlighting the longstanding allegations regarding Panchami land, where the office of Murasoli, the official newspaper of DMK, is located. He pointed out the public’s strong suspicions about the DMK’s evasion of answers regarding the allegations.
Annamalai reiterated that the BJP’s legal struggle, led by state general secretary Professor Rama Srinivasan and state list team leader Periyasamy, seeks to recover Panchami lands belonging to the Scheduled Community. He urged the DMK to cooperate with the investigation and not delay the proceedings any further.
திமுகவின் அதிகாரப்பூர்வ பத்திரிகையான முரசொலி அலுவலகம் அமைந்திருக்கும் இடம், பட்டியல் சமூக மக்களுக்குச் சொந்தமான பஞ்சமி நிலம் என்ற குற்றச்சாட்டு பல ஆண்டுகளாக உள்ளது. பல தளங்களில் கேள்வி எழுப்பியும், இந்தக் குற்றச்சாட்டு குறித்து விளக்கமளிக்க வேண்டிய திமுகவோ, இதற்குப் பதில்…
— K.Annamalai (@annamalai_k) January 10, 2024
Former DMK minister K Ponmudy has approached the Supreme Court to challenge the Madras High Court’s December 21 verdict, which sentenced him to three years of simple imprisonment in a Rs 1.75 crore disproportionate assets case. The court had also handed down a similar sentence to the minister’s wife, P Visalakshi. Meanwhile, Senthil Balaji, a minister without portfolio, remains in judicial custody, with his bail petitions consistently rejected by the court, following opposition from the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The Special Court is expected to rule on Balaji’s bail application on January 12.
The court’s endorsement of fresh NCSC summons marks a crucial development in the ongoing controversy surrounding the Panchami land issue.