Wants an IPS officer to handle probe and submit a report by August 3
The Madras High Court on Tuesday directed the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption (DVAC) to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the allegation that Minister for Milk and Dairy Development K.T. Rajenthra Bhalaji amassed wealth disproportionate to known sources of income ever since he held the post of vice-president of the Tiruthangal town panchayat (now a municipality) in Virudhunagar district in 1996.
Passing interim orders on a public interest litigation petition filed in the Madurai Bench in 2013, a Division Bench of Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and R. Hemalatha ordered that the inquiry be conducted by an Indian Police Service officer in the rank of a Superintendent of Police, and that periodic reports be filed in sealed covers before the court.
The first of those reports should be filed by August 3.
Though the DVAC had claimed that it had already conducted a preliminary inquiry after the filing of the PIL in 2013 and submitted a negative report to the government in 2014, dropping all further proceedings, the Bench expressed dissatisfaction with the inquiry since it was confined to the period between 2011 and 2013.
The judges said the inquiry was being ordered in public interest, and also in the interest of purity of administration.
Authoring the judgment, Mr. Justice Sathyanarayanan said the PIL petitioner, R. Mahendran of Madurai, had claimed that Mr. Bhalaji had declared to have had no known sources of income while contesting the Assembly elections for the first time in 2011. In the declaration made to the Election Commission of India back then, the Minister had stated that he was not an income tax assessee, and that he did not possess a PAN (Permanent Account Number) card.
However, in the very same declaration, he had claimed to be in possession of immovable as well as movable assets, including an SUV worth several lakhs, the petitioner noted, and recalled that Mr. Bhalaji was the vice-president of the Tiruthangal town panchayat between 1996 and 2004. After the local body was upgraded into a municipality, he was its vice-chairman between 2004 and 2011. Pursuant to the 2011 Assembly elections, he was made the Minister for Information and Special Programme Implementation.
Thereafter, the Minister began purchasing huge tracts of land and got them registered by undervaluing their worth, the petitioner alleged, and sought a thorough probe into the quantum of wealth amassed by him. Though the court had already issued a direction to the DVAC to hold a preliminary inquiry and file a compliance report, the directorate conducted an inquiry for the check period between 2011 and 2013 alone, and submitted a negative report.
It was also brought to the notice of the court that the State government too had, in 2014, accepted the negative report submitted by the DVAC, dropping all further proceedings against the Minister.