File report on probe against TN CM on DMK's graft plaint: HC

The Madras High Court Wednesday directed the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption to file a report on the day-to-day preliminary investigation conducted by it against Chief Minister K Palaniswami on a corruption complaint filed against him in award of contracts.

It asked the state government whether DVAV officials have concluded that no offence was made out in the corruption plaint filed by DMK organising secretary and Rajya Sabha MP R S Bharathi.

Passing an interim order, Justice A D Jagadish Chandira directed the DVAC to file the comprehensive report on the day-to-day preliminary investigation conducted by it.

"Let the report be filed in a sealed cover and also explain why the complainant has not been inquired by the investigating officer," Justice Jagadish Chandira said.

The judge passed the interim order on the plea by Bharathi who alleged that Palaniswami had abused his power and allotted highway projects worth Rs 3,500 crore to his relatives and 'benamis'.

Bharathi wanted the court to direct the DVAC to conduct a preliminary inquiry and register an FIR.

On Tuesday, the DMK leader moved an additional plea seeking to transfer the probe to an independent investigating team, since DVAC was technically under the chief minister.

When the plea came up on Wednesday, senior counsel for petitioner N R Elango submitted that the cost of projects that would ordinarily not exceed Rs 8 to 10 crore has escalated to Rs 21 crore and above.

Citing a manual of the World Bank for projects funded by it, Elango said according to the document "the tender issuing authorities should not have any conflict of interest with the firms to which such contracts are awarded".

Refuting the allegation, advocate general Vijay Narayan submitted that the chief ministers son got married to the daughter of one such contractor only in 2014. But the contractor is in the business since 1991.

"In view of such marriage they cannot become ineligible to get such contracts," Narayan contended.

When the judge raised a specific allegation of crony capitalism and "what kind of investigation has been done on the allegations of cost escalation? the DVAC refuted it.

"There is no enhancement of cost at all. These are all 'annuity contract' projects completely monitored by the World Bank. At this stage court must only see whether process of law is followed," Narayan said.

Technically the plea has become infructuous since DVAC has completed the preliminary investigation and forwarded its report to the Vigilance Commissioner, Narayan submitted.

When the judge asked if the DVAC officers have come to a conclusion that no offence was made out, he said a report has been sent to the commissioner based on the inquiry.

"The commissioner can reject the report or direct us to proceed further. It is up to the commissioner."

The judge posted the plea to September 17 for further hearing.

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