Farce, charade, collusion: HC on acquittal of two Ministers
V Shyamala, the investigating officer (IO), filed a detailed final report in Madurai special court in 2012
CHENNAI: In a scathing criticism of the Srivilliputhur special court and the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) for allegedly colluding with Ministers, the Madras High Court said the trio appears to have acted in tandem to reduce the administration of the criminal justice system to a complete farce.
Justice N Anand Venkatesh, who holds the portfolio to hear criminal cases against MP/MLAs, exercised his revisional powers to reopen the disproportionate asset cases from which Ministers KKSSR Ramachandran and Thangam Thennarasu were discharged after observing that it was the High Court’s duty to intervene and prevent the miscarriage of justice.
“When the investigation officers in corruption cases start dancing to the lullabies of politicians in power, the concept of fair and impartial investigation would be reduced to a mere charade,” he said, adding that the special court should have known that criminals and ethics were strange bedfellows, and that tactlessly mixing them up would produce a deadly cocktail, as has been done in both the cases.
Pointing out that the same modus operandi was followed in both cases in a well-orchestrated pattern to enable the Ministers to be discharged from the cases, Justice Venkatesan said, “These machinations are part of a well-organised plot to ensure that the prosecutions against the two Ministers before the very same court were short-circuited/subverted by self-destructing the prosecution case.”
Alleging amassing assets far in excess of known sources of income when Ramachandran was the minister between 2006-2011, the DVAC had in 2011 registered a case against him, wife R Aadhilakshmi, and friend KSP Shanmugamoorthy. V Shyamala, the investigating officer (IO), filed a detailed final report in Madurai special court in 2012. The case was later transferred to the Srivilliputhur special court.
After the DMK came to power in 2021, K Ramachandran, the new IO, submitted an intimation for further investigation under Section 173(8) of CrPC and then gave a clean chit to the accused. Though this was diametrically opposite to the previous conclusion, principal judge V Thilaham accepted it as the final report and discharged all the accused in July.
In Thennarasu’s case, he and wife Manimegalai were booked in 2012 for amassing wealth and the IO, S Swaminathan, submitted an exhaustive final report before the Special Court for Prevention of Corruption Act Cases, Madurai, in 2012. The case was transferred to the Srivilliputhur special judge for administrative reasons.
What happened after that was strikingly similar as the earlier case, Justice Venkatesan found: After Thennarasu became a Minister again in 2021, Boominathan, another IO, filed an intimation for further investigation; submitted a final closure report giving a clean chit to the accused; and the then principal judge discharged the DMK leader and his wife.
While raising suspicion in the final closure reports submitted by both IOs, the judge said the Supreme Court had held that “further” investigation is the continuation of the earlier investigation and not a fresh investigation or reinvestigation to be started ab initio wiping out the earlier investigation altogether.
“Further investigation is, in essence, meant to supplement the earlier investigation. What has happened in both cases is precisely the opposite. Under the guise of further investigation, the investigating officers instead of supplementing have supplanted the earlier report.”
Both investigating officers cooked up a cocktail hitherto unknown to criminal law by filing a final closure report which was clearly mischievous and appeared to be ex-facie illegal, he said. The special court blindly accepted it, literally playing the role of lady justice by blindfolding itself to the deliberate and devious plot that was unfurling before it, the judge said.
Paraphrasing the famous phrase from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, he said, “Something is very rotten in the special court for MP/MLA cases at Srivilliputhur.”
Appearing for the IOs, Advocate General R Shunmugasundaram said the they could not be stigmatised without being heard and added that enhancement notice and suo motu would normally go before a different judge than the judge who issued notice.
However, Justice Venkatesan rejected the argument and directed the registry to issue notice to the accused, including Ramachandran and Thangam Thennarasu, for hearing on September 20, and to place the suo motu copy before the Chief Justice for information.