Relief for Tamil Nadu Minister K Ponmudy as special court acquits him in 1998 land-grab case

Ponmudy, then the transport minister in the DMK ministry, allegedly evicted a man from a government property by forging a fake sale deed in 1998.

ByVinodh Arulappan

Published Jul 06, 2023 | 3:41 PM Updated Jul 17, 2023 | 2:27 PM

Relief for Tamil Nadu Minister K Ponmudy as special court acquits him in 1998 land-grab case

In yet another relief for Tamil Nadu’s High Education Minister K Ponmudy, Special Court Judge G Jayavel acquitted him in a land-grab case on Thursday, 6 July.

Earlier, the minister and his wife P Visalakshi were acquitted in a disproportionate wealth amassment case on 28 June.

While acquitting Ponmudy in the land-grab case, the Special Court, hearing cases involving elected representatives, cited the prosecution’s failure to prove the case beyond any reasonable doubt.

The court observed that the prosecution could not provide any material or incriminating statement connecting the respondent (Ponmudy and others) with the alleged conspiracy or the acquisition of the property in the name of the minister’s mother-in-law P Saraswathy.

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The land-grab case

The prosecution case was that Ponmudy evicted one Kannappan aka Kannan who was living in a hut on one corner of a government-owned piece of land at Srinagar Colony in Chennai’s Saidapet.

The alleged incident occurred when Ponmudy was the transport minister in the 1996-2001 DMK government.

The Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) charged that, in 1998, Ponmudy fabricated a sale deed saying Kannan had sold the said property to Saraswathy for ₹8 lakh. Subsequently, the DMK leader constructed a house worth about ₹35 lakh on the plot and started living there.

The DVAC also booked a few revenue officials for allegedly assisting the minister in grabbing the property.

The alleged crime came to light during the investigation of another case booked against him for reportedly amassing wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income during the AIADMK regime.

Following this, the DVAC on 27 August, 2003, registered a separate case of cheating and abuse of office against Ponmudy and nine others, including Saraswathy, under relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988

After completing the investigation and getting sanction from the then Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, a chargesheet was submitted against Ponmudy and nine others on 2 September 2004.

The Additional Sessions Court-III, which heard the case, discharged Ponmudy and his family members from a land-grab case in April 2007.

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DVAC challenges acquittal

Challenging the acquittal, the DVAC filed a revision petition in the Madras High Court.

On 6 September 2017, the high court set aside the lower court’s order. Further, the court directed Ponmudy to face trial since prima facie, a case had been made out against him.

Saraswathy and two others died while the case was pending before the court.