‘Parties use court for their political games,’ Madras High Court dismisses DMK’s plea against EPS

The DMK sought a fresh inquiry into the highway tender scam despite an earlier report already being accepted by the DVAC and the then-AIADMK government.

ByVinodh Arulappan

Published Jul 18, 2023 | 8:16 PM Updated Jul 18, 2023 | 8:16 PM

In cases of this nature, the court is like a playground where the ruling and opposition party try to score a point for their own political games, the court held. (Creative Commons)

The Madras High Court, on Tuesday, 18 July, granted relief to AIADMK general secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami, dismissing a petition filed by DMK Organising Secretary RS Bharathi seeking a fresh inquiry into what is referred to as the “state highway tender scam”.

The court also came down hard on the Tamil Nadu Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) for its volte-face in the case on account of a change in government.

Justice Anand Venkatesh, while dismissing the petition, observed that without any change in the circumstances, except for a change in government in 2021, the DMK government cannot now order a preliminary inquiry afresh by disregarding the earlier report, which was, in fact, accepted by the DVAC and the then-AIADMK government.

“In the eye of law, there is only one state government and it is immaterial as to which political party takes over the power. Therefore, for all purposes, a decision taken by the government should stand and it cannot be reversed without any valid reasons, especially for a change in guard,” the judge said.

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‘Did DVAC become wiser within 5 years?’

The judge also pointed out that the DVAC conducted a detailed inquiry and found that a prima facie case had not been made out against the then chief minister Palaniswami.

Therefore, a conscious decision was taken to close the complaint and the same is apparent from the grounds that were raised by the DVAC before the Supreme Court while filing an independent appeal against the earlier order of the CBI investigation passed by the Madras High Court.

“The question is as to what really made the first respondent (DVAC) to completely take a 360-degree turn and ask the government in the year 2023 regarding the action to be taken against the second respondent (EPS) on the closure report that was already submitted.

“Did the first respondent (DVAC) become wiser within a span of five years or did the first respondent stumble upon any other new material, which will have a bearing on the closure report?” Justice Venkatesh asked.

In a swift reply to his own question, Justice Venkatesh said, “The answer is a resounding ‘no’ and the only reason that can be gathered from the materials placed before this court is that there was a change in the power dynamics and that is the only reason why the first respondent (DVAC) wants to disregard the previous inquiry report and commences a fresh inquiry.”

He held that unless it is found that the act done by the authority earlier is either contrary to statutory provisions or is unreasonable or is against the public interest, the state government should not change its stand merely because another political party has come into power.

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‘Political agenda should not be subversive of the rule of law’

Stating that in none of the communications that was placed before the court there was even a reference that the previous preliminary inquiry report was not in conformity with the law or that it was unreasonable or that some new materials have cropped up to require a fresh inquiry, the judge stated, “This court holds that the preliminary inquiry has been directed to be held afresh only for the reason that the other political party has come into power. The political agenda of an individual or a political party should not be subversive of the rule of law.”

“It is almost 73 years since the Constitution of India started governing this country and the harsh reality is that the Executive has almost lost its independence and it has virtually turned into an organ merely executing whatever is said/dictated/ordered by the political party, which is in power during the relevant point of time.

“Over a period of time, the political parties have carefully manipulated the system to such an extent that they have a complete control over the Executive. Every time when there is a change in guard, the entire Executive set up also changes to ensure that organ toes the dictates of the government in power.

“Therefore, in reality, the separation of power that is in the hands of the Executive is almost non-existent,” the judge stated.

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‘Parties uses court for their political games’

“In cases of this nature, the court is like a playground where the ruling and Opposition party try to score a point for their own political games. Ultimately, the order passed by the court will only become a subject matter of a talk show in the television channels, which will be discussed with a lot of hue and cry where the participants will scream at the top of their voice supporting one party or the other and, ultimately, it will all get consigned to nothing,” the court held.

Further, the judge said, “The time that is spent by the courts on these issues virtually eats the judicial time, which has to be spent purposefully for a poor litigant, who is waiting for years together with a fond hope that his case will be taken up at the earliest and that there will be some light at the end of the tunnel.”

He added, “This court expressed its anguish on the complete loss of independent functioning by the Executive and this is one such appropriate case where this court deemed it fit to put forth the naked reality that has actually set into the system contrary to what the makers of the Constitution had in their mind when they gave us this Constitution.”

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Background of the case

In 2018, during the AIADMK regime, RS Bharathi, the DMK Organising Secretary, filed a petition in the Madras High Court, alleging irregularities in awarding five highway tenders to contractors who were relatives of the chief minister Palaniswami.

Following the complaint, a DVAC inquiry was ordered and the investigation agency, after an inquiry, closed the complaint saying that there were no irregularities and gave a clean chit to Palaniswami.

Bharathi again approached the Madras High Court alleging foul play in the DVAC investigation and the court ordered a probe by the CBI.

Subsequently, Palaniswami approached the Supreme Court for a stay on the CBI enquiry, contending that the high court has not gone through the DVAC report and that he was not been a respondent in the petition filed by the DMK functionary.

Allowing Palaniswami’s appeal, the Supreme Court set aside the order transferring the matter to the CBI and referred the case back to the Madras High Court to hear it afresh.

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