The Supreme Court Friday directed the Madras High Court to supply a copy of the report of the preliminary inquiry conducted against former Tamil Nadu minister and AIADMK MLA SP Velumani in an alleged corruption case against him. A bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana, and justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli said, "In our considered opinion, the High Court has committed a patent error in not taking the matter to its logical conclusion. Without considering the material before it, and by merely relying on the submissions made by the counsel for the State, the High Court has made sweeping observations which are prejudicial to the appellant."
The bench said that it was the High Court which had ordered that a preliminary inquiry be conducted and a report be submitted by the special investigating officer. "However, once the inquiry was completed, the High Court failed to even peruse the said report. Rather, the High Court left the decision completely in the hands of the State Government. Such an approach, as adopted by the High Court in the present matter, cannot be countenanced in law," it said.
Taking note of change of the government stand after the regime change in the State, the bench said "it is a settled principle that the State cannot blow hot and cold at the same time. When the State Government changed its stand, the High Court neither provided the appellant an opportunity to defend himself, nor sought a reasoned justification from the State for having turned turtle".
It said although the High Court directed the appellant to file a counter affidavit in the writ proceedings, the State hastened to register the FIR on August 9, 2021 against the ex-minister.
"It is noteworthy that the initial affidavit filed by the State was categorical that they did not intend to pursue action against the appellant herein. However, the subsequent change of stand by the State clearly contradicts the expectation brought about by the initial affidavit," the bench said.
It added that the principles of natural justice demanded that the appellant (ex-minister) be afforded an opportunity to defend his case based on the material that had exonerated him initially, which was originally accepted by the State.
"In view of the aforesaid discussion, and taking into consideration the peculiar facts of the instant case, particularly the fact that the High Court had ordered an enquiry and obtained a report without furnishing a copy thereof to the appellant and unceremoniously closed the writ petition, we deem it appropriate to issue the following directions -- The High Court is directed to supply a copy of the report submitted by Ms. R. Ponni, Superintendent of Police along with the other documents to the appellant herein," the bench said.
It also directed petitions filed by the complainant which were disposed of, are restored on the file of the High Court.
"The High Court is directed to dispose of the cases on their own merit, uninfluenced by any observation made herein," the bench said.
It added that although the prayer for quashing of the FIR was not orally pressed before this Court, the appellant is granted liberty to seek appropriate remedy before the High Court.
The complainant RS Bharathi has alleged before the High Court that Velumani misused his powers as a minister to influence the tender process and ensured that tenders were awarded to his close aides in the municipal corporations.
Bharathi on September 11, 2018 had filed a complaint with the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption and also filed a criminal petition in Madras High Court.
After no action was taken on his complaint, he filed a writ petition before the High Court seeking registration of a case against the ex-minister and setting up of SIT to investigate the matter.