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|May 14, 1998||
Charges framed against Jaya, 10 others in colour TV scam
Charges were framed against former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha, her erstwhile cabinet colleague T M Selvaganapathy and nine others in the Rs 101.6 million colour television scam case today by Special Judge V Radhakrishnan who also dismissed a batch of petitions filed by her and seven other accused seeking to discharge them from the case.
Dismissing the petitions filed by Jayalalitha, the prime accused, her associate Sasikala, former finance minister V R Nedunchezhian, Selvaganapathy, his personal aide K Janarthanam, former chief secretary N Haribhaskar and senior IAS officers M Sathiamoorthy and H M Pandey, the judge said there were sufficient grounds to frame charges against the accused.
According to the state crime branch CID, which is probing the case, Jayalalitha and ten others had received kickbacks of Rs 101.6 million in the purchase of 45,302 colour television sets for panchayat community centres during the All India Anna DMK regime.
All the 11 accused were present in the court as directed by the judge on May 6 when the case came up for hearing.
The judge said he was framing charges under Section 120(b) of the IPC read with Section 13(2) and Section 13(1)(d) ii and iii and Section 13 (1)(c) of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Section 109 and 409 of the IPC.
The judge said it was crystal clear from records that Jayalalitha, Selvaganapathy, Janardhanam, Nedunchezhiyan, Haribhaskar, Pandey and Sathyamoorthy, who were discharging their duties as public servants, had become a party to criminal conspiracy to commit an illegal act, namely purchase of colour television sets at the rate of Rs 14,500 per piece as against the market rate of Rs 12,000, by violating all norms, and causing loss to the state exchequer to the tune of Rs 90 million.
The judge said Jayalalaitha's close aide Sasikala Natrajan and three others had abetted the public servants to commit criminal misconduct and oral and documentary evidence gathered during investigation showed there were sufficient grounds to frame charges against the accused.
The prosecution's case was that the accused had received kickbacks of Rs 101.6 million by striking a deal in 1995 for the purchase of 45,302 colour television sets for village community centres.
The judge said the trial would commence on June 22.
The judge said the conspiracy of misappropriating the funds had been secretly hatched. This was clear from the attendant circumstances and the attitude of the persons involved. It was not necessary that all the accused, who were party to the conspiracy in its initial stages, should continue as conspirators till the objective was achieved, he added.
He said Jayalalitha, Nedunchezhian, Selvaganapathy, Pandey, Sathiamoorthy, Haribhaskar and Janarthanam had misused their position as public servants and committed criminal misconduct and gained pecuniary advantage either for themselves or for others.
Referring to Jayalalitha's contention that since the Centre had not cleared the prosecution of Haribhasker, the truncated cognisance of the case would be deemed invalid, the judge said the Supreme Court had held that no sanction was necessary under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act once a public servant ceased to be so. Hence her contention was untenable, the judge added.
Referring to her argument that the sanction of the governor who was unaware of the Tamil language, had been mechanically made without application of mind, he said there was no rule or accepted norm which stated that the governor mention, in the sanction order itself, that Tamil documents had been translated into English and that the sanction order had been granted on the basis of the translation.
The governor's sanction was in no way vitiated, he held.
The judge said there was enough material to show that there was more than a meeting of minds among the accused regarding the offence of conspiracy to misappropriate government funds.
The judge said while Selvaganapathy had abused his position as a public servant by actively participating in the conspiracy, Nedunchezhian had failed to attach any importance to the valid and serious objections raised by his own finance department against the proposal to purchase television sets at a price far higher than the market price. He had signed the file enabling others to get pecuniary advantage illegally, resulting in a loss of several millions to the government. But for his approval, the government would not have suffered a loss of more than Rs 90 million.
There was material to show that Sasikala had influenced Jayalalitha at the instance of her nephew S R Bhaskaran, one of the accused in the case, which resulted in the abetment of criminal misconduct by Jayalalitha, the judge said, and added that the claim of Sasikala that she was only an accessory and that she had no hand in the criminal conspiracy could not be accepted.
The judge said as per the statement of witnesses, Bhaskaran had received Rs 300,000 to speed up the clearance of the file relating to the purchase of televisions by influencing Sasikala who in turn had promised to exert influence on Jayalalitha.
This is the third case in which charges have been framed against Jayalalitha. Earlier, charges had been framed against her in cases relating to amassment of wealth disproportionate to her known sources of income and construction of seven-storeyed Pleasant Stay hotel at Kodaikanal in violation of building rules.
Former Union minister Sedapatti R Muthiah, former ministers M Chinnasamy, Mohamed Asif, K A Sengottaiyan and S Raghupathy and women's wing leader Sulochana Sampath were among those who accompanied Jayalalitha to the court.
A large number of AIADMK volunteers, including women, gathered outside the court hall and raised slogans hailing Jayalalitha when she came out of court.
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