iconimg Monday, August 31, 2015

Bhadra Sinha, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, January 07, 2014
A corrupt public servant amassing property in the name of relatives cannot escape criminal prosecution by claiming he/she is not its legal owner, the Supreme Court has held.   In the ruling on Monday, the SC held that property in the name of an income tax assessee could not be a conclusive ground to hold that it actually belonged to such an assessee.

“In case this proposition is accepted, in our opinion, it will lead to disastrous consequences,” a bench headed by justice CK Prasad said, reversing an order of Madras high court discharging two former Tamil Nadu ministers in separate corruption cases.

The apex court added such a proposition would give opportunity to corrupt public servants to amass property in the name of known persons, pay income tax on their behalf and then escape scrutiny.

The SC ruling means N Suresh Rajan and K Ponmudi, ministers in the DMK regime from May 1996 to May 2001, will now face trial.

Rajan was the tourism minister, while was the transport minister.

Their relatives, accused of amassing property disproportionate to known sources of income, would also face criminal trial, the SC said.

The SC even condoned a delay of more than 1,900 days taken by Tamil Nadu’s vigilance and anti-corruption department to challenge the HC verdict. According to the appeal, the ministers’ relatives had amassed properties despite not having any source of earning.

The department claimed Rajan had disproportionate assets of more than Rs. 23 lakh. His wife, mother and father possessed assets worth over Rs. 17 lakh. Investigations revealed the three did not have any independent source of income.

Similarly, Ponmudi possessed assets of more than Rs. 3 crore. He even committed the offence of criminal misconduct by acquiring pecuniary (relating to money) resources in the name of his wife and mother-in-law.