TN minister K Ponmudy moves Supreme Court against Madras High Court suo motu revision

The HC revision came after a special court acquitted the TN higher education minister and his relatives in a disproportionate assets case.

ByVinodh Arulappan

Published Oct 09, 2023 | 9:49 PMUpdatedOct 10, 2023 | 1:27 PM

Ponmudy disproportionate assets case Judge Anand Venkatesh

Tamil Nadu Higher Education Minister K Ponmudy and his wife P Visalatchi challenged in the Supreme Court the suo motu revision taken by Justice Anand Venkatesh against their acquittal in a disproportionate assets case.

On Monday, 9 October, when the case came up for hearing before Justice G Jayachandran in the Madras High Court, the minister and his wife’s counsel NR Elango informed the court that a Special Leave Petition had been filed before the apex court against the suo motu revision.

The senior counsel further stated that the might may be listed for hearing in the coming days, and prayed the court to adjourn the hearing to November.

However, the judge refused a long adjournment and directed the registry to list the case for a hearing on 19 October.

Related: HC initiates suo motu proceedings following Ponmudy acquittal

Why the suo motu revision?

On 10 August, Justice Anand Venkatesh, who was holding 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.”

Related: ‘Will not recuse from hearing suo motu cases against ministers’

Objections raised

In the next hearing, on 14 September, Ponmudy and the DVAC — the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption — objected to Justice Anand Venkatesh hearing the case.

They argued that the court had prejudged the issue and argued that the judge must recuse himself from the case as per Section 190(c) of the CrPC, which states that a judge initiating suo motu proceedings should not hear the matter.

Refusing to recuse himself from the case, the judge said that the orders of the high court resonated with the voice of not any individual judge but one institution.

“The decision-making by the high court is an institutional action and not the action of any particular judge,” he observed.

The judge also adjourned the case to 9 October for arguments, mentioning that a fresh roster would come into effect from the first week of October, and that these matters could be taken up and heard at length once the next roster was notified by the Madras High Court.

However, Madras High Court Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala changed the roster for the next three months, allocating Justice Jayachandran the portfolio of hearing cases against MPs and MLAs.

Hence, all the six suo motu revisions initiated by Justice Anand Venkatesh — against Ponmudy, Thangam Thennarasu, I Periyasamy, KKSSR Ramachandran, and former AIADMK Ministers O Paneerselvam and Valarmathi, will be heard by Justice Jayachandran for the next three months.

Meanwhile, Justice Anand Venkatesh was moved to the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court — the circuit bench of the Madras High Court where judges hear cases on a rotational basis for three months.