Madras HC Hands Over Corruption Probe Against TN CM Palaniswami To CBI [Read Judgment]

Madras HC Hands Over Corruption Probe Against TN CM Palaniswami To CBI [Read Judgment]

The Court expressed the opinion that the enquiry had not been done in a fair manner and is nothing but a perfunctory exercise thereby, the case has to be necessarily transfered to any other independent agency not under the control of the persons in power.

The Madras High Court on Friday ordered CBI investigation into the corruption allegations against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E Palaniswami, which pertain to awarding of contracts of highway projects worth crores to his relatives.

Justice A D Jagadish Chandira expressed dissatisfaction over the clean chit given to the CM by the State Vigilance Department.

The order was passed in a petition filed by R S Bharathi, Secretary of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam(DMK), the opposition party. Bharati alleged in the petition that cost of World Bank funded State Highway projects were artificially inflated, and the work was awarded to persons related to the Chief Minister. It was alleged that to eliminate and dissuade all eligible contractors from participating in the bid by adopting intimidating tactics and thereby, the provisions of the Transparency of Tenders Act, 1998 and its rules have been violated with impunity.

The further allegation was that case for criminal misconduct under the provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 had been made out against the present Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and that he had amassed wealth by using his office as Highways Minister.

The petition was originally filed for registration of FIR against the CM. After the filing of the case, the State Vigilance department initiated preliminary enquiry.  After such enquiry, the Advocate General informed the Court that no case was made out against the CM. The Court expressed the opinion that the enquiry had not been done in a fair manner and is nothing but a perfunctory exercise thereby, the case has to be necessarily transfered to any other independent agency not under the control of the persons in power.

The Court noted that the allegations are made against the Chief Minister and his relatives who were the contractors. The Department which has awarded the contract is under the administrative control of the CM and the agency which is inquiring into the complaint was also under the administrative control of CM, as he was holding the portfolios of Home Affairs and Police.

"Taking into consideration the facts of this case this court at the outset is able to visualise that the preliminary enquiry had not been done in a fair and just manner. What else could be stated about an enquiry conducted without even examining the complainant who has raised serious allegations?", Justice Jagadish Chandira observed.

The Court went on to observe : "It does not need the wisdom of Solomon to infer that right from the receipt of the complaint and the registration of the preliminary enquiry, the conduct of the respondent had been aimed with a sole objective of closing the case by filing a negative report as no case made out.The manner in which the inquiry had been conducted even without calling the complainant speaks for itself that the investigation had not been done in a fair and proper manner."

Justifying interference under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the Court observed :

"Justice should not only be done but be seen to be done" being the essence of fairness equally applicable to administrative authorities and people in power. Fairness is thus a prime test for proper and good administration. It has no set form or procedure. It depends upon the facts of each case. This case will certainly fall within the category of “Exceptional and rarest case”.

It was stated that in the matters where allegations are made against the persons in high power, the Court as a constitutional Court can taking into consideration the facts and circumstances transfer the investigation to instill confidence in the mind of the public.

"The allegations or an accusations against the persons in power can be purged only through an independent investigation process which is fair, just, reasonable and transparent which a public servant should find as a stage to vindicate his stand. When allegations of such serious nature has been made an honest endeavor should have been taken by the persons in power to voluntarily transfer the case to an independent agency to clear the cloud, so that, it would instill confidence in the minds of citizens", the Court said.

Hence, the files were directed to be handed over to Joint Director, Central Bureau of Investigation (South Zone) College Road, Nungambakkam, Chennai. The Joint Director was directed to depute an officer under him in the
rank of a Superintendent of Police to conduct a fair and indenpendent investigation.

The Court made it clear that it has not expressed anything regarding the merits of the allegations.

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