The Madras High Court has convicted Tamil Nadu Higher Education Minister and his wife in a disproportionate asset case filed by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption in 2011.

Setting aside the order of acquittal passed by the Trial Court, the Bench of Justice G Jayachandran observed that, "the trial Court on superficial reading of the evidence had proceeded with the process of decision making on the premise that A-1 and A-2 are separate entities and they both cannot be clubbed together. This is basically a fallacious approach by the trial Court."

APP Babu Muthu Meeran appeared for the appellant, while Senior Counsel NR Elango and Senior Counsel R Basand appeared for the respondents.

The case against the former Minister K. Ponmudi and his wife originated in 2011 when the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) filed charges. Ponmudi served as the Minister for Higher Education and Mines in the DMK regime from 2006 to 2011.

The prosecution alleged that between April 13, 2006, and March 31, 2010, the accused amassed Rs 1.79 crore in wealth disproportionate to their documented income. The DVAC claimed that the couple's pecuniary resources and properties increased from Rs 2.71 crore to Rs. 6.27 crore during this period.

The DVAC asserted that the accused failed to provide a satisfactory explanation for the significant increase in their wealth. Ponmudi, as a public servant, was accused of violating the Prevention of Corruption Act, while his wife faced charges of aiding and abetting him in acquiring disproportionate assets.

In 2016, the Trial Court acquitted the couple. However, in 2017, the DVAC appealed this decision before the high court.

The High Court observed that, "The readily acceptance of Income Tax Returns of A-2 by the trial Court without any independent evidence is palpably wrong and manifestly erroneous. The trial Court, before jumping into the said conclusion ought to have searched for supportive and independent evidence".

In light of the same, the Court set aside the acquittal of the accused, while observing that, "considering the overwhelming evidence against the respondents and the unsustainable reasons given by the trial Court for acquittal by ignore those evidence compel this court to declare the judgment of the trial Court is palpably wrong, manifestly erroneous and demonstrably unsustainable."

Consequently, it was held that the charge under the Prevention of Corruption Act stood proven.

Cause Title: State vs K.Ponmudi @ Deivasigaman & Anr.

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