Hearing a petition by Tamil Nadu Revenue minister K K S S R Ramachandran, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Hrishikesh Roy ruled that the Madras High Court could hear the suo moto revisions against Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) ministers.
This refers to cases pertaining to well known politicians of both DMK and AIADMK having been acquitted or discharged in lower court in corruption cases. All the discharges or acquittals had a common pattern - the investigating agency or prosecuting agency either changed stances or went easy on the accused. This change of stance coincided with the accused person's party coming to power.
These cases were taken up for hearing suo moto by Justice Anand Venkatesh of the Madras HC in 2023. Not only did he take them up, but in January 2024 he also decided to begin daily hearings.
The Supreme Court also said that it would be appropriate if the Chief Justice of the High Court considered the matter and then decided if he would take up the matter himself or assign it to any other judge.
The SC's ruling thus clears the decks for hearings on several cases to restart.
Former Higher Education minister K Ponmudy, Revenue Minister Ramachandran, Finance Minister Thangam Thennarasu, Rural Development Minister I Periyasamy, former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam (OPS), and B Valarmathi are some of the prominent politicians caught in these cases.
The SC's decision comes when the DMK has already been battling bad news and adverse political climate. The party has seen nearly its entire top leadership embroiled in corruption cases or central agency investigations.
Ponmudy, a top minister and party functionary in DMK, was recently disqualified as an MLA after his conviction in another disproportionate assets case. The ED has filed a chargesheet against his son for laundering money obtained from the excess mining of red sand.
Senthil Balaji, who is a minister without portfolio, continues to remain in jail more than 200 days after his arrest in connection with a cash-for-jobs scam.
The premises of Public Works Minister E V Velu and Lok Sabha MP S Jagathrakshakan have been searched by the Income Tax department.
The Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) probe into the estimated Rs 4,730 crore illegal river sand mining scam in the state got new vigour recently with the seizure of 200 Kobelco excavators.
It is likely to summon the water resources minister and party general secretary Duraimurugan in connection with the probe.
With this, seven of the party’s ministers or leaders are under the scanner of central agencies or the courts on charges of corruption. This has affected the party in two ways – one, it has made it weaker at an organisational level and two, a narrative of the DMK being a ‘corrupt’ party has been set in motion.
The latter narrative has also gained ground with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president K Annamalai’s relentless criticism of the ruling party. He has also compiled existing video and documentary material against the DMK into the 'DMK Files' and the 'PTR Tapes'.
With the general elections of 2024 only a few weeks away the ruling party's leadership is going to be distracted with the court cases.
S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
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