Tamil Nadu’s Minister for Backward Classes Welfare RS Rajakannappan will hold the additional post of Minister for Higher Education now that K Ponmudy has been convicted by the Madras High Court in the disproportionate assets case against him. Ponmudy was sentenced to three years imprisonment and fined Rs 50 lakhs by the court on Thursday, December 21. Also the MLA for Tirukoilur Assembly constituency, Ponmudy now stands disqualified as a legislator as per section 8(1) of the Representation of the People Act. According to the Act, a person convicted for various offences, including provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, shall be disqualified for a period of six years, in addition to term of sentence.
As Ponmudy has been sentenced to three years imprisonment, his period of disqualification will hold for nine years in total. However, it may be noted that the High Court has suspended the former minister’s sentencing for a month to allow him to appeal in the Supreme Court.
Ponmudy and his wife P Visalakshi were accused of amassing assets worth Rs 1.72 crore beyond their source of income when he was serving as the Minister for Higher Education and Mines between 2006-2011. The case was registered against them by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-corruption (DVAC) in 2011 after the AIADMK party under Jayalalithaa came to power. Though the trial court had acquitted the couple in 2016, Justice G Jayachandran of the Madras High Court found that Ponmudy and his wife had amassed 65% assets disproportionate to their income.
Minister Rajakannappan, who is to replace Ponmudy, switched from the AIADMK to the DMK in 2020. After the DMK formed the government in 2021, he was made Minister of Transport, Nationalised Transport, Motor Vehicles Act. He also currently holds the portfolio for Khadi and Village Industries Board. In 2022, during a cabinet reshuffle, he was assigned the Ministry for Backward Classes Welfare. He also previously served as the Minister for Highways, Public Works Department and Electricity, from 1991 to 1996 as part of the then AIADMK government.
Approving the transfer of the Higher Education portfolio to Kannappan, the Raj Bhavan said in a press release that Governor RN Ravi has assented to the state government’s recommendation to transfer the Khadi and Village Industries portfolio to R Gandhi, who is also the Minister for Handlooms and Textile.