The Madras High Court on Wednesday ordered the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) to submit sealed reports of the day-to-day investigations conducted into the complaints of graft filed against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami. This comes less than a month after the DMK moved the court, accusing the anti-corruption body of inaction with regard to the case.
Justice Jagdish Chandra asked the DVAC for a status updated on the investigations into the alleged irregularities in awarding government highways contracts to family members of the Chief Minister. The Justice also questioned the DVAC on whether the engineers in the body had conducted a thorough investigation into the matter, including the undertaking of the contract, the price determination and the technical qualifications required to carry out such a project.
Appearing before the Madras High Court on Wednesday, Tamil Nadu Advocate General Vijay Narayan submitted a sealed report of the DVAC's preliminary inquiry into the corruption allegations against the TN CM.
He said that investigations had taken place with officials of the Highways Departments and a report was subsequently sent to the DVAC chief.
In June this year, the DMK had alleged that several government highways contracts had been given to the kith and kin of the Chief Minister. The party alleged that the tender for the four-laning of the Tirunelveli-Sengottai-Kollam highway on SH 39 has been awarded Venkatachalapathy Constructions, reportedly owned by P Subramaniam, the father-in-law of Edappadi Palaniswami’s son Mithun.
To this, the AG contended that the Chief Minister's relatives have been government contractors since 1991. "Just because he is the Chief Minister's son, does that make him unqualified to receive government contracts?" he asked.
The government also said that the World Bank was overseeing the highways projects that it was assisting with. There have been no additional funds set aside for this, said the AG.
The DMK had stated in its letter to the DVAC that the cost of the highways projects, now under scanner, had been revised to higher amounts. Denying this, the AG said that World Bank-assisted projects are only given funds annually.
Appearing on behalf of the DMK, senior counsel NR Elango questioned the impartiality of the DVAC probe, when the agency comes under the direct control of the Chief Minister, who is being investigated. Further, the DMK called for a special investigation into the allegations.
The DMK contended that the projects, assisted by the World Bank, were in violation of its norms since contracts were awarded to firms owned by the CM's relatives.
The party stated that it has also filed DVAC complaints against the Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, Health Minister C Vijayabaskar and Minister for Municipal Administration and Rural Development SP Velumani. However, no action has been forthcoming, the DMK counsel said.
In its complaint to the DVAC, the DMK lists out various irregularities in ‘overvalued’ World Bank-assisted government projects, including the four-laning of the Oddanchatram-Dharapuram-
The DVAC is expected to submit the sealed report on September 17 when the matter will be taken up for further investigation.