CHENNAI: The first division bench of Madras High Court on Thursday ordered the transfer of the investigation into the multi-crore, inter-State gutkha scam case in Tamil Nadu to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).As top bureaucrats and police officials of TN, the Centre and other States are alleged to be involved in the case, it would be appropriate for it to be investigated by a Central agency like CBI, the bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose said.
The bench was disposing of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petitions from DMK MLA J Anbalagan and activist ‘Traffic’ Ramasamy.“The underground gutkha business is a crime against society which needs to be curbed. We, therefore, deem it appropriate to direct the CBI to investigate into all aspects of the offence... ,” the 88-page order said. The court reasoned a CBI probe was necessary to create faith of the people in fairness and impartiality of the probe.
The alleged scam came to light in July 2017, when the Income Tax department conducted raids at the godown, offices and residences of a pan masala and gutkha manufacturer in the State. The manufacturer was alleged to have evaded taxes to the tune of `250 crore. The manufacture, storage and sale of the carcinogenic chewable forms of tobacco, including gutkha and pan masala were banned by TN in 2013. During the raids, the department seized a diary containing names of those believed to have been paid off by gutkha manufacturers. The diary included the name of TN Health Minister C Vijaya Baskar. Immediately, DMK moved HC seeking a CBI probe.