Justice N Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court on Thursday declined to recuse himself from hearing a revision petition against the acquittal of Tamil Nadu minister K Ponmudi in a disproportionate assets case, Live Law reported.
In an unprecedented decision last month, Venkatesh had deemed illegal the transfer of the case against Ponmudi. The case had been transferred from the Villupuram district court to the one in Vellore in July 2022. In June this year, the Vellore court acquitted the minister.
Venkatesh had decided to review the proceedings in the matter, noting that “something [was] seriously amiss” in the manner in which the case had been transferred.
In response, Ponmudi and the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption in Tamil Nadu had filed an application demanding that Venkatesh should recuse himself from hearing the review plea.
At an earlier hearing, Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption, had submitted that Venkatesh “had predetermined certain issues thereby revealing an element of bias”, Live Law reported.
But Venkatesh rejected the application, observing that a plea of bias cannot be raised by a party that would be a beneficiary of such bias.
“It is, therefore, a mystery as to why the mighty State is shooting a plea of bias at this Court from the shoulders of the accused,” the judge noted.
In the past few weeks, Justice Venkatesh has initiated proceedings to revisit acquittals of four political leaders. Venkatesh is the portfolio judge for all courts in Tamil Nadu hearing cases against MPs and MLAs.
On August 23, he reopened another case in which ministers KKSSR Ramachandran and Thangam Thenarasu had been acquitted of charges of holding assets disproportionate to their incomes. On September 1, he reopened a corruption case in which former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister OP Panneerselvam had been acquitted in 2012.