Madras High Court takes suo motu revision of order acquitting TN Minister Ponmudi in DA case

Justice Anand Venkatesh finds illegality in the transfer of the case to Vellore and the hurry in delivering the verdict two days before the judge retired. 
Higher Education Minister K Ponmudy. (File Photo)
Higher Education Minister K Ponmudy. (File Photo)

CHENNAI: Finding illegality in transferring the disproportionate assets (DA) case against Tamil Nadu Minister for Higher Education and senior DMK leader K Ponmudy and his wife from Villupuram to Velloore and the tearing hurry shown by the judge to deliver a voluminous order two days before her retirement acquitting the accused, the Madras High Court on Thursday initiated suo motu revision petition against the lower court’s judgment.

Enlisting the reasons for taking the suo motu revision, though it is not usual, Justice N Anand Venkatesh found the whole activities surrounding the transfer of the long pending case is ‘coram-non-judice’ (without jurisdiction) and found a calculated attempt to undermine and thwart the administration of criminal justice system.

He questioned the High Court’s power to issue an ‘official memorandum’ injuncting the principal judge of Villupuram from proceeding with the case whereas the fact is that the judge had sought permission for special sitting on holidays.

He said interfering with the judicial proceedings of a lower court through ‘official memorandums’ on the administrative side is palpably ‘illegal’ and ‘without legal sanctity’.

Justice Anand Venkatesh also questioned the power of the administrative committee consisting of two High Court judges to transfer the pending criminal case from one district to another that too by way of a note because the power to transfer cases is judicial power vested in the High Court.

The note of the administrative judges directing the transfer of the case from Principal District Court, Villupuram Vellore is ‘ex-facie illegal and non-est in law,’ he said.

He justified the suo motu revision of the judgment saying that the High Court cannot abjure its duty to prevent miscarriage of justice by ‘interfering where interference is imperative.’

The judge observed that the case gathered pace and by the first week of June, the celestial stars of the accused appeared to be lining up perfectly, with the blessings of judicial personages, including the Principal District Judge, Vellore who was set to demit office on June 30, 2023.

Within four days, the principal district judge marshaled the evidence of 172 prosecution witnesses and 381 documents and managed (or rather stage-managed) to deliver a 226-page testament/judgment acquitting all the accused.

“This unique feat of industry on the part of the Principal District Judge, Vellore can find few parallels, and it may well be said is a feat that even judicial mortals in constitutional courts can only dream of,” the judge noted.

He deplored, “The narrative reveals a shocking and calculated attempt to manipulate and subvert the criminal justice system.”

He ordered notice to the DVAC, Ponmudi, and his wife and posted the matter for September 7, 2023, and directed the Registry to place a copy of the order to the Chief Justice for information.

The prosecution case was that Ponmudy, a senior DMK leader, had amassed wealth to the tune of Rs 1.4 crore in his name and that of his wife, disproportionate to his known sources of income during his tenure as minister between 1996 and 2001.

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