Madras HC sentences TN minister K Ponmudi to 3 years of simple imprisonment in DA case

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CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Thursday sentenced Tamil Nadu Education Minister K Ponmudi to three years of simple imprisonment in a Disproportionate Assets (DA) case.

Justice G Jayachandran of Madras High Court sentenced the Education Minister and also imposed a fine of Rs 50 lakh each on Ponmudi and his wife. However, the judge suspended the sentence for 30 days for Ponmudi, as he currently holds the Higher Education Minister portfolio.

Earlier, on Tuesday, the Madras HC set aside the trial court’s ruling that cleared Ponmudi of charges in the DA case. While allowing an appeal filed by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC), Justice G Jayachandran set aside the trial court’s judgment in which Minister Ponmudi was acquitted from the case. Justice Jayachandran directed Ponmudi and his wife to appear before the court on December 21 (Thursday).

The trial court, on June 28, 2023, in its order, acquitted Tamil Nadu Education Minister Ponmudi. The case dates back to the period when the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) was in power from 2006 to 2011. Ponmudi and his wife Visalakshi were prosecuted during the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) regime in 2011 for allegedly accumulating assets beyond their known sources of income.

The investigation in the case was led by Villupuram District Anti-Corruption Superintendent of Police Kanniyappan. More than a hundred people were investigated and chargesheets were filed in the case. It was alleged that Minister Ponmudi and Visalakshi had accumulated more than Rs 1.36 crore in assets.

Initially, the case was tried in the Villupuram Chief Criminal Court, but it was shifted to the Villupuram Anti-Corruption Special Court in 2015. In November 2022, following the transition of power and DMK taking charge, the case was transferred to the Vellore District Principal Sessions Court in November 2022.

A significant turn of events occurred when Ponmudi and his wife made a court appearance on the day of judgment in the asset embezzlement case. The presiding judge ruled in favour of the accused, citing insufficient evidence as grounds for acquittal from the property transfer charge.

As there was no appeal on behalf of the anti-bribery department against this judgment on June 28, Madras High Court Judge Anand Venkatesh took up the case. Justice N Anand Venkatesh of Madras High Court took up suo motu of the trial court order where Higher Education Minister Ponmudi was acquitted in the DA case booked by DVAC in 2006.

Ponmudi had filed an appeal in the Supreme Court as well, seeking consideration and potential resolution in the DA matter, but the plea was later dismissed by the apex court. (ANI)

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