The Madras High Court today sought the response of the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government to a PIL by a DMK MLA seeking a probe by a special investigation team into allegations of involvement of a state minister and officials in a gutkha scam. A bench comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar issued notice and directed the governments to file their counter and posted the PIL for further hearing to September 11. Petitioner J Anbazhagan has sought appointment of the SIT, headed by a retired judge of the high court and comprising officials from the CBI and other departments, to probe the alleged involvement of the minister and state and central government officials in “facilitating” sale of the banned ‘gutkha’ (tobacco product).
The matter had first come up on July 28 for hearing and was adjourned after inconclusive submissions by the petitioner’s counsel. As the hearing resumed today, senior counsel P Wilson, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that an inquiry by an independent agency was a must since the matter “involved” the officials of both the state and central governments. He said there were also allegations about involvement of senior police officials in the scam and huge amount of bribes had been reportedly paid. Referring to various Supreme Court judgements, he submitted “investigation by an independent agency is indispensable” when there was “involvement” of the state and Central government officials in a case of corruption and particularly when local police was also allegedly part of it.
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Advocate General R Muthukumaraswamy, representing the state government, rejected Wilson’s argument that no action had been taken against gutkha and pan masala manufacturers, distributors and sellers in the state. He said more than 20,000 cases had been registered till date. Of this, in more than 12,000 cases, the accused had been convicted. About 2,800 cases were pending trial, he said terming as incorrect the allegation that the state government had not taken any action.