CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Friday confirmed the 2010 order of a Special Court for CBI cases awarding a two-year jail term to M Natarajan, husband of ousted AIADMK general secretary V K Sasikala, and three others in connection with the import of a luxury car in 1994.
“There is ample evidence placed before the court by the prosecution to show that these accused have involved in cheating the government by producing forged documents,” Justice G Jayachandran said.
According to prosecution, Natarajan imported a Toyota Lexus car in 1994 declaring it as used vehicle of 1993 mode, thereby evading tax to the tune of `1.06 crore. The CBI and the Enforcement Directorate registered separate cases against Natarajan and three others, who actively helped him in the import.
The Special Court for CBI Cases on October 26, 2010, convicted all the four accused for tax evasion, cheating and criminal conspiracy, and sentenced them to two years of imprisonment. Challenging this, all the four preferred the present appeals in the High Court. Justice Jayachandran noted that the Lexus car, with engine capacity of 3,000 cc, which is not in compliance with the ‘residence transfer’ provision had been imported with fabricated documents. The provision clearly restricted the import of car above 1,600 cc by Indian nationals or foreign nationals of Indian origin coming to India for permanent settlement, unless the said importer had stayed abroad continuously for at least two years and had used the car for one year before the date of import, the judge added.
The judge also opined that many senior customs officials, who were part of the conspiracy, were not prosecuted in the case. “It is unfortunate that senior customs officers who were the members of the conspiracy were not prosecuted, since the prosecuting agency was refused sanction by the competent authority. This cannot be the reason to allow the other conspirators to go scot-free. This court opines that this is high time to revisit the law mandating sanction under the Prevention of Corruption Act and subject it to judicial scrutiny,” the judge said.
The refusal to accord sanction should be subject to judicial scrutiny, so that improper exercise of power by unscrupulous persons shielding their subordinates shall be averted, judge added. The judge directed the trial court to secure the accused and remand them in judicial custody to undergo remaining period of sentence, if any.
According to CBI, Natarajan, along with three others — his nephew V Bhaskaran, Yogesh Balakrishnan (exporter of the car) and Sujaritha Sundararajan (a bank manager) — substituted the original sale invoice with a photocopy of an invoice fabricated by changing the vehicle’s manufacturing date to July 1993. They cleared the car under transfer of residence provision, and thereby caused a loss of `1.06 crore to the exchequer by way of short levy, penalty and redemption fine, the judge said.