Madras High Court orders CBI probe into Rs 40 cr gutkha scam

The order has come as a major embarrassment for the already beleaguered AIADMK government that is battling crisis after crisis since J Jayalalithaa's death. PTI file photo.

In a major embarrassment to the Tamil Nadu Government, the Madras High Court on Thursday ordered a CBI probe into the multi-crore gutkha scam allegedly involving Health Minister C Vijayabhaskar, Director General of Police T K Rajendran and a retired top police official.

The first bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose passed the order on two Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petitions filed by DMK MLA J Anbalagan and activist Ramasamy seeking an impartial CBI inquiry into the scam.

"The clandestine gutkha business is a crime against society, which needed to be curbed. We, therefore, deem it appropriate to direct the CBI to investigate the illegal manufacture, import, supply, distribution and sale of gutkha and other forms of chewable tobacco... detect and take action against those involved in the offence... in connivance with public/government servants," the bench said in its detailed order.

The judges also made it clear they are ordering a CBI probe only to instil faith of the people in the fairness and impartiality of the investigation. “…we make it absolutely clear that this direction is not to be construed as any definitive findings of this court of the complicity of any constitutional functionary or of any of the specific office of the state government,” the order said.

S George, who retired as Chennai Police Commissioner last year, is also alleged to have been involved in the scam.

It all started in July 2016 when Income Tax sleuths raided the premises of Madhava Rao, who is into manufacturing of gutkha, and recovered a diary with details of bribes amounting to nearly Rs 40 crore being given to a minister and top police officials for allowing the sale of banned substance like gutkha in the market. The I-T department admitted before the court about the existence of the diary.

Immediately after the verdict, Opposition Leader M K Stalin demanded the resignation of Vijayabhaskar and Rajendran, but it was rejected by the AIADMK government and the minister himself.

“It is normal for performing ministers to be dragged into cases. I have nothing to hide, so I have nothing to fear,” Vijayabhaskar said and ruled out his resignation.

The order is not just a political setback for the beleaguered AIADMK government that has been facing crisis following the death of its charismatic leader J Jayalalithaa in December 2016, but also a legal one. During the hearing, the counsels representing the Tamil Nadu government opposed the idea of CBI probe, contending that there is an ongoing investigation by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC). The DVAC probe was also in the news when an officer-in-charge to the investigation was transferred.

 

 

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Madras High Court orders CBI probe into Rs 40 cr gutkha scam

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