Thank God we have judges like Anand Venkatesh, says CJI as Supreme Court declines TN Minister Ponmudi’s plea

The bench said that all the arguments could be advanced before a single judge, who issued notice on the acquittal of the minister.

ByParmod Kumar

Published Nov 06, 2023 | 5:23 PMUpdatedNov 06, 2023 | 5:23 PM

Ponmudy disproportionate assets case Judge Anand Venkatesh

The Supreme Court on Monday, 6 November, declined Tamil Nadu Minister K Ponmudy and his wife P Visalatchi’s plea challenging the issuance of notice by the Madras High Court taking suo motu cognizance of their acquittal in a disproportionate assets case by a trial court judge.

The case was transferred to the trial court by the Chief Justice of the High Court in an inter-district transfer of the case.

Chief Justice DY Chandrachud admired the high court judge who took suo motu cognizance of the acquisition of the minister and his wife in the disproportionate assets case.

CJI said: “Thank God we have judges like Justice Anand Venkatesh in our system. Imagine a trial was transferred from one state to another in this case and this involved a sitting minister.”

The apex court bench also comprised Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Mishra.

Profile: Meet Madras HC Judge Anand Venkatesh, praised by Supreme Court

CJI expresses gratitude, concern

Having appreciated Justice Anand Venkatesh for taking suo motu cognizance of the acquittal of Ponmudy and his wife, Chief Justice Chandrachud expressed grave concern over the Madras High Court chief justice transferring the case to another district judge, a long-pending trial hurriedly conducted, resulting in acquittal.

Refusing to entertain submissions by senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Mukul Rohatgi appearing for the accused and the state government, the bench said that all the arguments could be advanced before a single judge, who issued notice to the accused and public prosecutor on the acquittal of the minister and his wife.

As the former chief justice of Orissa High Court S Muralidhar, appearing for the concerned judicial officer, sought to address the bench, Chief Justice Chandrachud said, “We will not call you as a brother (as judges address each other) but Mr Muralidhar.”

An advocate appearing for the respondent in the matter said Dr Muralidhar could appear on any side but they were happy to get him on their side (the bar).

“I appear for a judicial officer and she has a completely unblemished record”, Muralidhar told the bench — his first case as a senior advocate before the CJI bench.

Related: Shocked over acquittal of Ponmudy, HC initiates suo motu case

The order by Justice Anand Venkatesh

On 10 August, Justice Anand Venkatesh, who holds the portfolio for cases relating to MPs and MLAs, initiated a suo motu revision after calling for the records related to the case from the Vellore Special Court for cases relating to MPs and MLAs.

The Special Court had acquitted Ponmudy and his relatives in a disproportionate assets case.

The Madras High Court is said to have found several disparities in the way the asset case was heard and the judgement was delivered.

Making a note of this, Justice Anand Venkatesh stated that the whole process was “a calculated attempt to undermine and thwart the administration of criminal justice”.

Justifying the suo motu revision, he said: “It is clear that where manifest illegality by a criminal court resulting in gross failure of justice comes to the notice of the high court, it is the bounden duty of the high court as a constitutional court to set right the illegality and to ensure that public confidence in the criminal justice system is maintained” and ordered notice to the minister, his wife, and the DVAC.”