CBI probe ordered into road contracts awarded by TN CM

CBI probe ordered into road contracts awarded by TN CM

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami will face a probe by the CBI into allegations of “large-scale corruption” in award of road contracts by the Highways Department handled by him. 

The probe by the central agency as ordered by the Madras High Court on Friday is the latest embarrassment to Palaniswami and his government that wakes up to a new crisis every day. Already, Palaniswami’s deputy O Panneerselvam is on the radar of the Directorate of Anti-Corruption and Vigilance (DVAC) in a disproportionate assets case, while his colleague C Vijayabhaskar is facing a CBIprobe in gutkha scam.  

Justice A D Jagadish Chandira ordered the CBI probe, while holding that the DVAC probe that gave a clean chit to the chief minister was nothing but a “perfunctory” exercise, on a petition filed by DMK MP R S Bharathi, who sought a court-monitored investigation into awarding of road contracts by the Highways Department, a portfolio held by Palaniswami currently and also when he was part of the J Jayalalithaa cabinet.

The DMK has alleged irregularities and corruption in award of road contracts and has accused Palaniswami of abusing his power and allotting projects worth Rs 3,500 crore to his relatives, including his son, and ‘benamis’. The irregularities, according to the DMK, were in award of four-laning and six-laning of roads maintained by the Highways Department.

Within hours of the high court ordering CBI probe, Opposition parties led by DMK president M K Stalin demanded that Palaniswami quit as chief minister.

“It will be a shame for the state of Tamil Nadu if Palaniswami continues as chief minister. He should either quit or the Governor should dismiss him,” Stalin said. AIADMK rebel T T V Dhinakaran, PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss and Left parties also demanded Palaniswami’s resignation. While asking the DVAC to hand over all documents relating to the case to the CBI officials in Chennai within a week, the judge asked the central agency to conclude the Preliminary Enquiry preferably within a period of three months from the date of receipt of a copy of his order.

“If the Preliminary Enquiry discloses offences of cognisable nature, he shall register a case and proceed in accordance with law,” Justice Chandira said in his order. Holding that probity in public life is a concern of all citizens, the judge said the interest of polity is to see that its public servants are above board and probing into the probity of persons in power is not anathema.

The judge also said he was making it clear that his order does not express any opinion in relation to the allegations made in the complaint of the petitioner and that the order was passed only in the “interest of justice for ensuring fair, reasonable and transparent investigation.”