Gutka scam hearing adjourned to January 23

The Madras High Court today adjourned till January 23 the hearing in the gutka scam case in which bribes were allegedly paid to a Tamil Nadu minister and top officials to "facilitate" the sale of banned gutka in the state.

The income tax department had informed the court on January 12 that its confidential letter seeking action against those involved in the scam was seized from a room occupied by expelled AIADMK leader Sasikala in the Poes Garden residence of Jayalalithaa during a search on November 17, 2017.

This information was disclosed in an affidavit submitted by principal director of income tax, Chennai, Susie Babu Varghese, on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by DMK MLA J Anbazhagan for a CBI probe into the alleged scam.

The PIL alleged that a state minister and high-level state and central government officers, including police officials, were involved in the scam to "facilitate" sale of banned 'gutka' (a mixture of betel nut and tobacco) and contended that CBI alone can conduct a thorough and impartial probe in the matter.

It said the then principal director of the I-T department had on August 11, 2016, written to the Tamil Nadu chief secretary and director general of police in connection with the scam.

The letter was addressed to both of them, with copies of the relevant parts of the seized materials, it said.

Copies of extracts of sworn statements recorded from Madhava Rao, a partner in the gutka company allegedly involved in the scam, giving evidence of payments to various parties connected with the state government, were also enclosed with the letter.

The letter had requested necessary action against the persons concerned, Varghese said in the affidavit.

This apart, in the sworn statement, Rao had stated that the payments were made to various officials and explained that the abbreviation of 'HM' and 'CP' in the diary seized from the firm denotes health minister and commissioner of police respectively, Varghese had said.

I-T sleuths had conducted searches in the office block and a room occupied by Sasikala, currently serving a prison term in a corruption case, at the Poes Garden residence of Jayalalithaa, 'Veda Nilayam', following inputs.

Jayalalithaa was admitted to a hospital here with complaints of fever and dehydration on September 22, 2016 and died on December 5 that year.

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