Published On: Mon, Nov 6th, 2023

CJI praises Madras High Court judge who reopened graft cases

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday declined to intervene in a recent order by the Madras High Court to reopen a graft case against Tamil Nadu Minister K Ponmudy and his wife, reported Live Law.

DY Chandrachud, praised Justice Venkatesh’s decision

The case, which involves allegations of irregularities in the transfer of the trial, was reopened by Justice N Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court.

Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, praised Justice Venkatesh’s decision, stating, “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 involving a sitting minister. Thank God we have judges like him.”

In August 2023, Justice Venkatesh ordered the reopening of the case against Ponmudy, who had been acquitted in a disproportionate assets case. The judge also initiated revision of legal proceedings against two other DMK ministers, Revenue Minister KKSSR Ramachandran and Finance Minister Thangam Thennarasu, in similar cases.

Ponmudy and his wife challenged the Madras High Court’s order in the Supreme Court. When the matter came up for hearing today, the bench led by CJI Chandrachud expressed disinclination to entertaining their petition.

The CJI pointed out that the matter was already pending before the single bench of the Madras High Court and told the petitioners’ counsel, “You argue before the High Court, that it has no suo motu power.”

The disproportionate assets case against Tamil Nadu Minister K Ponmudy and his wife, P Visalatchi, dates back to 2002. The couple was acquitted on June 28, 2023, but the Madras High Court took up on its own a revision against their acquittal on August 10, 2023.

This decision was made by Justice Anand Venkatesh, who found the facts of the case and the manner in which the trial was transferred from Villupuram to Vellore to be indicative of “a shocking and calculated attempt to manipulate and subvert the criminal justice system.”

Despite requests from both the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) and Minister Ponmudy for Justice Venkatesh to recuse himself from the case due to his strong observations, the judge refused to step down. This refusal was detailed in an order passed on September 14, 2023.

Ponmudy and his wife approached the Supreme Court, challenging the High Court’s order. They informed the Madras High Court of this move on October 9, 2023. The couple’s Special Leave Petition (SLP) challenges only the August 10 order, not the order of Justice Venkatesh refusing to recuse himself.

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