The Madras High Court on Thursday reserved orders on a miscellaneous petition filed by DMK leader Marudu Ganesh seeking a CBI probe into alleged bribery of voters leading to cancellation of the RK Nagar bye-election in April 2017.
A bench comprising Justices M Sathyanarayanan and R Hemalatha reserved orders after hearing arguments on behalf of the petitioner, the state government, the Election Commission and the Income Tax department.
Ganesh, who was the opposition party’s candidate, and others had originally moved the court seeking the registration of an FIR against those accused of bribery in the bypoll to the Assembly constituency. Polls were cancelled a week before they were to be held following Income Tax raids at various places, including at properties related to Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijayabaskar, on April 7, 2017.
During the searches, various documents were seized in different places allegedly containing information on distribution of money to voters in the constituency.
Based on a complaint by the state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), an FIR was registered. However, it was quashed by a single judge bench of the High Court later.
After that Marudu Ganesh (who lost the poll), moved the miscellaneous petition seeking a CBI probe into the alleged bribery of voters in the constituency.
In the previous hearing on December 16 last year, the EC informed the court that it has directed the CEO to file a fresh complaint.
Senior counsel P Wilson, who appeared for the petitioner, said the prayer in the amendment petition was to take penal action against the persons whose names were mentioned in the Election Commission report based on which the CEO lodged the police complaint.
“All is not well. Now what is the status? Whether they have filed a fresh complaint or not, we requested you to transfer the investigation to the CBI,” he urged the judges.
State Advocate General Vijay Narayan submitted that a total of 882 witnesses were inquired in connection with the malpractices.
Noting that the court had already quashed the FIR, he said amending the prayer seeking CBI probe has no basis.
Counsel for the Income Tax department submitted that its settlement commission was yet to pass assessment orders in respect of Minister Vijayabaskar for four assessment years, including the period when the seizures were made.
The Minister has approached the commission after assessment proceedings under Section 153 A of the Income Tax Act were initiated for the assessment years 2011-12 to 2018-19 based on the searches conducted in 2017.
The I-T counsel said the commission has rejected the prayer of the minister by its January 9 order.
He further said assessment orders had been passed in respect four years from 2011-12. It will take a year to decide on the remaining four years.
Vijayabaskar had recently moved a single judge bench of the court seeking an interim direction to the I-T department not to pass any assessment orders whatsoever pertaining to him until cross-examination of all the witnesses were completed and adequate final opportunity was given before the assessment.
After hearing the arguments, the division Bench said it was reserving orders on the petition seeking a CBI probe filed by Marudu Ganesh and posted all other matters to February 11.
The byelection to RK Nagar constituency was necessitated following the death of late chief minister J Jayalalithaa in December 2016. Elections subsequently held in December 2017 saw independent candidate and AMMK chief TTV Dhinakaran win the polls.