Chennai: The Madras High Court on Thursday directed the Tamil Nadu Additional Chief Secretary (Industries Department) to consider a plea seeking prior approval for proceeding against mining officials in a complaint that alleged defrauding the government to the extent of Rs 500 crore through means like illegal mining.
Justice V Bharathidasan gave the direction while passing interim orders on a criminal original petition from Gnanarajan of Upparpatti village in Theni district praying for a direction to the Directorate of Vigilance and Corruption (DVAC) to register a case on his complaint dated July 15, 2021 and proceed further against the accused, which included former Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam.
In his criminal original petition, the petitioner alleged that Paneerselvam and his associates had carried out illegal mining of gravel sand to the value of Rs 500 crore. "They had also converted the government land as their own property by changing the patta and creating the false documents by misusing and abusing their official power." In this connection, he had lodged a complaint with the DVAC. As there was no progress, he filed the present petition for a direction to the DVAC to register an FIR and proceed further.
When the matter came up for hearing previously, the government advocate submitted that the matter was pending before the Commissioner, DVAC, Chennai, for approval under the Prevention of Corruption Act. And the court on November 15 last year directed the Commissioner to pass suitable orders within two months.
Today when the matter was taken up, VAC Inspector, Theni detachment, who was present in court, submitted that since the officials from two different departments of the State were involved in the crime, the investigating officer has to get previous approval from the district Collector in respect of the officials belonging to the Revenue Department and from the Additional Chief Secretary, Industries, in respect of the officials belonging to the Department of Geology and Mining before proceeding in the matter.
According to her, the Collector had already given approval for proceeding against the Revenue officials involved in the crime. In so far as the approval in respect of the officials of the Geology and Mining Department is concerned, the matter is pending with the Additional Chief Secretary for approval. As soon as the approval is given by the ACS, the DVAC would take up further action in the matter in accordance with law, she added.
"Considering the fact that the matter has been pending from July 2021 and as already the district collector has given approval under Section 17-A(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act for proceeding against the officials belonging to the Revenue Department, the Industries ACS shall consider the request seeking prior approval for proceeding against the officials belonging to the Mining....