Madras HC allows police to further probe Kodanad case

Published on Aug 28, 2021 12:09 AM IST

Justice M Nirmal Kumer of the high court passed the orders while dismissing a petition filed by a prosecution witness N Ravi seeking a direction to stop police from conducting fresh investigations initiated after the DMK formed the government in May.

Earlier on Friday, the Kodanad case came up for proceedings at the trial court in Nilgiris where Sayan was produced but was later adjourned as Ravi’s plea was still pending at the Madras high court at the time. (HT File)
Earlier on Friday, the Kodanad case came up for proceedings at the trial court in Nilgiris where Sayan was produced but was later adjourned as Ravi’s plea was still pending at the Madras high court at the time. (HT File)
By, Chennai

The Madras high court on Friday allowed the police to conduct further investigation into the 2017 Kodanad heist and murder case currently in the trial stage, causing a setback to former Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami, who was linked to the case in 2019.

Justice M Nirmal Kumer of the high court passed the orders while dismissing a petition filed by a prosecution witness N Ravi seeking a direction to stop police from conducting fresh investigations initiated after the DMK formed the government in May.

The court, however, said that the petitioner, who is only a witness in the case, has no locus standi to oppose further investigations. The petitioner, the joint secretary of AIADMK’s wing Amma Peravai in Coimbatore district, had also sought the trial at the Nilgiris sessions court to be fast-tracked and conducted on a day-to-day basis.

Though Palaniswami is not a party in the legal case, the order is seen as a setback as he has repeatedly claimed that the DMK is scheming and conducting fresh investigations to frame him and other AIADMK leaders. His name was linked to the mystery-shrouded case in 2019, when key accused K V Sayan alleged involvement of Palaniswami, chief minister at the time, in the crime. Palaniswami and the police have denied this, but the DMK had at that time sought Palaniswami’s resignation.

This came back to haunt the AIADMK recently after Nilgiris police questioned Sayan on August 17, leading to a political and legal slugfest in the state. Palaniswami alleged that a ‘secret statement’ was taken from Sayan to frame him. Over this issue, Palaniswami led a walkout from the Tamil Nadu assembly, protested, and complained to Governor Banwarilal Purohit.

Chief minister M K Stalin dismissed AIADMK’s allegations of political vendetta and said that it was their election promise to bring the real culprits to book. “No one needs to fear,” Stalin told the assembly more than a week ago. The advocate general of the state, R Shanmugasundaram reiterated in court today that there is no political motive.

Besides the witnesses’ plea seeking a stay on further investigations, three out of the ten accused in the case also approached the Madras high court asking for Palaniswami and V K Sasikala, who co-owned the estate with late J Jayalalithaa, to be questioned.

Earlier on Friday, the Kodanad case came up for proceedings at the trial court in Nilgiris where Sayan was produced but was later adjourned as Ravi’s plea was still pending at the Madras high court at the time.

The state government’s counsels submitted a memo to the court about the pending plea based on which the Niligiri sessions court decided to defer the hearing and adjourned it to September 2. “The judge has informed that forensics experts will be questioned,” K Vijayan, one of the lawyers representing the accused, told reporters.

“Kodanad estate manager Nataraj and the then assistant engineer of electricity board will be examined as witnesses,” he said.

There are several unanswered questions and suspicious events in the four-year-old Kodanad case that have kept it intriguing. The crime in 2017 happened following former chief minister Jayalalithaa’s death in a Chennai hospital in December 2016 and Sasikala’s imprisonment in February 2017 in the disproportionate assets case. The 900-acre Kodanad tea estate in Nilgiris was Jayalalithaa’s summer retreat, and sometimes she even functioned from there while in office. Jayalalithaa purchased it with her close confidante Sasikala and her family members in the 1990s with varying shares.

On the intervening night of April 23 and 24, there was a break-in and murder of a security guard at the estate. Two of the accused met with road accidents, wherein Jayalalithaa’s former driver C Kanagaraj died while Sayan escaped with serious injuries. However, his wife and daughter died on the spot. The charge sheet filed in the case stated that wristwatches and a Rhinoceros Miniature were stolen which has raised questions on the motive as the accused were found to have come to the estate in high-end SUVs.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Divya Chandrababu is an award-winning political and human rights journalist based in Chennai, India. Divya is presently Assistant Editor of the Hindustan Times where she covers Tamil Nadu & Puducherry. She started her career as a broadcast journalist at NDTV-Hindu where she anchored and wrote prime time news bulletins. Later, she covered politics, development, mental health, child and disability rights for The Times of India. Divya has been a journalism fellow for several programs including the Asia Journalism Fellowship at Singapore and the KAS Media Asia- The Caravan for narrative journalism. Divya has a master's in politics and international studies from the University of Warwick, UK. As an independent journalist Divya has written for Indian and foreign publications on domestic and international affairs.

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