The submission made in the Supreme Court on Monday revealed that the Tamil Nadu governor RN Ravi sanctioned the prosecution of former ministers of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) C Vijayabhaskar and B V Ramana over the illegal sale of gutkha (chewing tobacco).
The ruling DMK government had in July granted permission to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to prosecute former health minister Vijayabhaskar and former minister for commercial taxes, Ramana, two retired director general of police and eight other officers. They are accused of taking bribes amounting to ₹39.91 crore to help transport, store and sell gutkha products in Chennai – which is banned in the state since 2013.
The governor has sanctioned their prosecution on November 13, according to the submission filed by the attorney general of India on behalf of the governor in the top court. The submission was made during the apex court’s hearing on a petition filed by the Tamil Nadu government against the governor’s delay in processing the 12 bills passed by the state legislature, besides withholding several other files relating to sanction and remission. After a rap from the Supreme Court, the governor returned 10 of these bills on November 13 which led the state government to convene a special assembly session on November 18, where the 10 bills were re-adopted and passed again.
Besides them, the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government had also sent requests to the governor to initiate prosecution for corruption against two other former ministers, KC Veeramani and MR Vijayabhaskar and former vice chancellor of Tamil University in Thanjavur, G Baskaran. The governor has returned the file against Veeramani on November 18, while the decision on former transport minister Vijayabhaskar is “under consideration”. Sanction has been accorded to prosecute the ex-vice chancellor on November 18.
The CBI took over the “gutkha scam” case from the Tamil Nadu police in 2018 (following a Madras high court order). In the same year the first charge sheet was filed with the central agency charging six accused.
In July 2016, the Income Tax department had raided a godown in Chennai’s suburbs belonging to a company which sold MDM brand gutkha. The I-T officials found a diary with names of ministers, officers and various others who had been paid kickbacks to continue selling the banned product.
Law minister S Reghupathy on Monday said that they were aware that the governor has accorded sanction only after his submission in the top court. “I cannot opine on the Supreme Court’s observations but it is a victory for the DMK that the (court) has asked (governors) to give assent to bills,” the law minister said.
Neither the AIADMK nor the affected ministers reacted to the development. However, the opposition party will hold a meeting chaired by its general secretary Edappadi K Palansiwami on Tuesday evening in Chennai.
In the submission filed by the governor, he has also said that only five bills are pending with him now. Out of the 580 proposals received for premature release of life convicts, he has approved 362, while 53 are under examination and the rest of 165 have been rejected. On the proposal related to retired DGP Sylendra Babu’s appointment as chairman to the Tamil Nadu public service commission, it was submitted that the “governor has observed that there is no transparency in the entire selection process.” The concerns were not addressed by the state, so the governor returned this filed on October 26.
On November 2, the state government filed a second writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging three notifications issued by the governor for a search committee to appoint vice-chancellors to three universities. The contention in this matter is of the governor including a nominee of the UGC to the committee which the government opposed. The governor has defended it saying that UGC’s regulations from 2018 mandate the nominee.
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