The Madras High Court on Thursday refused to end proceedings on a PIL alleging accumulation of disproportionate assets by Tamil Nadu Minister Rajenthra Bhalaji, despite a clean chit by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption (DVAC). The court slammed the anti-graft agency for an exhaustive investigation carried out under the guise of a preliminary inquiry. KT Rajenthra Bhalaji, Tamil Nadu’s Milk and Dairy Development Minister, is facing a probe into his alleged disproportionate assets amassed from 1996.
When the matter came up for hearing on Thursday, a division Bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and R Hemalatha, said, “By considering the arguments placed and also perusal of the closure report and consideration of materials placed would prima facie disclose that elaborate and detailed inquiry on the line of regular investigation has been done by the way of preliminary inquiry.”
The probe was initiated by the DVAC based on a complaint by petitioner R Mahendran from Madurai, alleging that Bhalaji had amassed wealth disproportionate to known sources of income when he was minister between 2011-13.
The agency gave a clean chit to the Minister in July last year after a detailed inquiry. However, the court observed that a detailed inquiry had been carried out without the registration of an FIR. According to a report in The Hindu, the judges also pointed out that the DVAC had found that less than 10% of the minister's income was disproportionate to known sources of income and questioned if the agency was right to 'unilaterally' decide to drop proceedings.
It may be noted that for anti-graft allegations against Tamil Nadu Minister SP Velumani too, the DVAC had justified a detailed probe without having filed an FIR. Incidentally, it was the same Bench to which the DVAC submitted a report in a sealed cover.
The petitioner had reportedly stated that Minister Bhalaji had purchased land in Devanatham and Tiruttangal for an amount that was below the market value. He was the vice president of the Tiruttangal town panchayat in 1996.
The minister's counsel stated in court that a detailed inquiry was conducted by the anti-graft body and said he had not acquired any assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.
The counsel then requested the court to drop all further proceedings.
Therefore, the court said it required the assistance of the minister's counsel and the state public prosecutor A Natarajan to ascertain the scope of preliminary enquiry, especially in light of the various pronouncements by the Supreme Court and the High Court.
(With PTI inputs)