"I Will Not Recuse; Go to Supreme Court": Justice Venkatesh of Madras HC Stands Firm In Suo Motu revision cases against TN ministers

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The judge wondered that instead of approaching the Top Court, the parties were urging him to recuse

Justice N Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court on Wednesday refused to recuse from the suo motu criminal revision cases against the discharge of Minister for Revenue and Disaster Management K.K.S.S.R Ramachandran and Finance Minister Thangam Thennarasu in two different disproportionate assets cases.

Justice Venkatesh, who holds the portfolio for MP/MLA cases in the high court, said so when Senior Counsel NR Elango, representing KKSSR, urged him to recuse from the matter stating that there was an apprehension of bias in the order passed by him.

The judge wondered that instead of approaching the Top Court, the parties were urging him to recuse. He clarified that all the suo motu revision cases had been numbered only after getting approval from the Chief Justice of the high court.

He said that if any of the parties have the apprehension that the orders are pre-conceived, and if they have a good case, they can approach the top court. 

Justice Venkatesh then adjourned the hearing till November.

Following the suo motu criminal revision case against acquittal of Tamil Nadu Minister Ponmudy and his wife in a case of 2002 involving alleged disproportionate assets, the Madras High Court initiated two more suo motu criminal revision cases against discharge of K.K.S.S.R Ramachandran, his wife Adhilakshmi and Thangam Thennarasu, his wife T.Manimegalai in disproportionate assets cases.

In his orders, Justice Venkatesh highlighted that the discharge orders in both cases involving the Ministers revealed a well-orchestrated pattern.

He noted that in both cases, the Special Court had taken cognizance of the final reports in 2013/14 and then discharge applications were filed, and the cases were adjourned for months and years on end till 2021. "In 2021, the accused persons became Ministers in the State Cabinet, and a few months thereafter the State prosecution very magnanimously came forward and offered to conduct 'further investigation'. The product of this 'further investigation' was a 'closure report' tailored to support the grounds for discharge", he underscored.  

"The Special Court was then presented with a perfect fiat accompli as the prosecution suddenly whitewashed its earlier final report and presented a picture of complete innocence. On its part, the Special Court accepted the closure report and proceeded to discharge the accused", the judge pointed out. 

Significantly, Justice Venkatesh stated, "Something is very rotten in the Special Court for MP/MLA Cases at Srivilluputhur".

The allegations were that Ramachandran allegedly amassed disproportionate wealth as Health and Backward Classes Minister during the 2006-2011 DMK regime, along with his wife and friend. The DVAC initially booked them under the Prevention of Corruption Act but later, in July 2023, it filed a final report citing no established offenses and accepting this, the Special Court discharged the Minister.

Further, against Thenarasu, it was alleged that during his tenure as the school education Minister in the 2006-2011 DMK regime, he and his wife allegedly amassed disproportionate assets. The DVAC filed a case under PCA after searches at his residences in Virudhunagar and Chennai. Nonetheless, a final report indicating no offense led to his discharge by the Special Court in December 2023.

In the earlier order, Justice Venkatesh held that the aforesaid narrative revealed a sorry picture. "The three stakeholders viz., the accused, the prosecution and the Special Court have acted in tandem to reduce the administration of the criminal justice system to a complete farce," he noted. 

Therefore, while pointing out the illegalities of the discharge orders in both cases, Justice Venkatesh opined that in both cases, excercising the powers of revision under Article 227 of the Constitution and Sections 397 and 401 of CrPC was appropriate to avert any miscarriage of justice.

He then issued notice to the accused individuals and posted the matter for further hearing on September 20, 2023 i.e. today.

Case Title: Suo motu case against State, Thiru.K.K.S.S.R.Ramachandran and Others; Connected suo motu case against State, T.Thennarasu @ Thangam Thennarasu and T.Manimegalai