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19 Mar 2019, Edition - 1344, Tuesday

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Coimbatore

HC favours CBI probe in gutkha scam

Covai Post Network

Chennai: Madras High Court today favoured a CBI probe into the gutkha scam case filed by the DMK and observed all necessary proof for initiating an investigation was there.

Last week, DMK legislator J Anbazhagan moved the court seeking setting up of a special investigation team headed by a retired judge of the High Court to probe the alleged involvement of State and Central government officials in the gutkha scam.

The bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar had then adjourned the matter till July 31. The petitioner sought a team headed by a retired High Court judge besides officials from the CBI and other departments.

His counsel said the common man was hit by ‘the act of the public servants who have aided and abetted this conspiracy to sell banned carcinogens to the public’.

Opposition Leader MK Stalin claimed he had evidence and showed photographs in the Assembly on July 19, claiming sale of these products continued freely despite the ban, counsel said.

‘Since a Minister of the State and high-level State and Central government officers, including police officials, are involved in this scam, no free, fair or impartial investigation can be conducted by the State police. Only the CBI can conduct a thorough and impartial probe in this matter,” the petitioner contended.

Earlier, Stalin demanded a CBI probe into the alleged payment of bribes to a Minister and top officials to help sale of gutkha in the State. Pointing to the State government’s stand in a related case in the High Court, he had said only a CBI probe could ‘unravel’ several details.

Searches by income-tax officials last year on the premises of an illegal gutkha manufacturer had indicated alleged payout to a minister and some officials, including a senior police officer.

Last month, following the DMK’s demand for a CBI probe into the gutkha issue, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami had said the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption was looking into the matter. On July 19, the Opposition created a stir in the Assembly, waving strips of sachets of banned tobacco products, prompting the Chair to refer their action to the privileges committee. This led to a walkout.

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