Thursday, April 28, 2011

Court refuses to quash case against Alagiri

The Madras High Court Bench here on Thursday dismissed a petition filed by Union Minister M.K. Alagiri to quash a criminal case registered against him on the basis of a complaint lodged by a Tahsildar, who was also the Assistant Returning Officer of Melur Assembly constituency here on April 1.

Declining to entertain the petition, Justice R.S. Ramanathan held that there were no grounds to quash the case at the present stage as the Tahsildar had categorically stated in the First Information Report that the Minister yelled at him and also attempted to assault him.

According to the complainant, the Minister had got enraged when he ordered video recording of the Minister's visit to a local temple along with his partymen following a tip-off that the visit was meant to canvass votes for the Assembly election held on April 13.

The judge pointed out that there was no dispute on the issue that the Tahsildar, M. Kalimuthu, was duly authorised by the Election Commission, in his capacity as the Assistant Returning Officer, to record the movements of certain political leaders on video.

When such was the case, the allegation that the Minister yelled at the officer and asked him to get out of the temple would attract Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code which prohibits an individual from causing obstruction, annoyance or injury to any person employed lawfully, he observed.

Mr. Justice Ramanathan said Section 141 (unlawful assembly) would also be attracted in the present case. Visiting a temple with a group of 40 to 50 individuals may not be termed as unlawful, but in this case, it turned into one due to the alleged conduct of the visitors, he added.

As for the affidavit filed by the Tahsildar before the court retracting the allegations of assault, the judge said that it was for the police and not the court to take a call on the issue. “No such incident took place on the date as alleged in my complaint,” the affidavit read.

Earlier, the petitioner's counsel contended that the Union Minister too was a public servant and he was well aware of his duties and responsibilities. “He is not a habitual offender. The only allegation made out against the first petitioner is that he made a gesture to his partymen,” the counsel said.

Though the quash petition had been filed jointly by the Minister, Deputy Mayor of Madurai P.M. Mannan (46) and two other Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam functionaries, counsel said that he pressed for quashing the FIR only with respect to the Minister. The State Public Prosecutor too supported the petitioner by stating that he was against quashing the FIR in respect of all other accused in the case, but for the Minister “who stands on a different footing.” He also objected to permitting an eyewitness to the incident as an intervener in the quash petition.

M. Kannan, an All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam functionary, had filed the intervening petition. Senior counsel K. Chellapandian, appearing for him, read out the relevant sentence in the FIR in which the Tahsildar had directly accused the Minister of attempting to assault him.

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