The Madras High Court on Friday admitted a writ petition filed by DMK organizing secretary R S Bharathi seeking a vigilance probe against Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisamy into irregularities in the award of highway contracts.
When the case came up before Justice A D Jagdish Chandira, the court asked why there had been a delay of over two months in completing the investigation into Bharathi’s complaint,
Advocate General Vijaya Narayan said Bharathi made his complaint on June 13 and the DVAC started its enquiry on June 23. However, the enquiry was at a preliminary stage, he said.
Appearing for Bharathi, senior counsel N R Ilangovan said Government had violated the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in the Lalithkumari case as well the provisions of the DVAC Act under which enquiry should be completed within two months of the receipt a complaint.
After hearing both sides, the judge sought a status report and posted the case to Sept 3. Bharathi submitted that the Chief Minister had misused his official position when he was Minister for Public Works and Highways in former Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa’s regime and now as the Chief Minister since February 2017 and awarded contracts for five road projects to his friends, benamis and close relatives and thereby caused loss to the exchequer.
Violating norms of the Transparency of Tenders Act 1998, highway contracts valued at several crores were awarded to Chandrakanth Ramalingam, related to EPS through his daughter-in-law, P Subramaniam, father-in-law of EPS’ son, and Nagarajan Seyyadurai, an alleged benami.
Citing specific cases, he said the highways department was implementing a four-lane road in Oddanchatram-Dharapuram- Avinashipalayam, under the design, build, finance, operate, maintain and transfer (DBFOMT) method. The original estimate was Rs 713 crore. However, subsequently the cost was increased to Rs 1,515 crore, including cash grant of Rs 315 crore.
The work order for this project had been allotted to Ramalingam & Co in Erode, in which Chandrakanth, his father Ramalingam and his sisters were on the board. Bharathi alleged that Chandrakanth is brother-in law of Palanisamy’s son Mithun.
He alleged irregularities committed in World Bank assisted project of four laning of Thirunelveli-Sengottai-Kollam, being implemented at a cost Rs 900 crore and given to Venkatachalapathy Constructions, the single bidder. He alleged that the firm is owned by P. Subramaniam, a benami of the Chief Minister.
Bharathi also alleged irregularities in the award of contracts for four-laning of Madurai Ring Road and Vandalur-Walajabad road. The fifth project related to maintenance of all State highway roads in Ramanathapuram, Thiruvallur, Krishnagiri and Virudhunagar districts, involving Rs 2,000 crore.