DMK President MK Stalin was vociferous in alleging corruption of the ADMK government before the elections. Often he invoked the slogan ‘Commission, Corruption, Collection’ to portray the ADMK government as one of the most corrupt regimes Tamil Nadu has ever witnessed. In December last year he presented a Memorandum to the Governor listing out corruption charges against former CM and his ministerial colleagues.
After presenting the complaint to Governor, Stalin said, “We have provided this evidence to the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC). We have filed several cases but no action has been taken,” Stalin told reporters after meeting Purohit. “The governor has the power of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2018. It is on that basis that we have lodged the complaint”
This was also included in the DMK’s election manifesto. In the manifesto, it was stated that
“20. Presently, the DVAC is not functioning efficiently due to interference from the Government. DMK will ensure to reverse this and will strive to provide corruption-free governance.
21. At various instances DMK has requested the Governor to take appropriate action against the corruption practices of the ADMK Ministers. With the change of Govt, DMK will establish special courts to handle such corruption cases and expedite its function.”
Expectations were high after the DMK won the polls. Many including this author believed that, like the DMK government in 1996, the present regime under MK.Stalin too would file corruption cases against the former ADMK ministers. But, when Senthil Balaji, a party hopper was made as Minister for the lucrative portfolio of Electricity and excise, the hopes crashed.
Senthil Balaji has all along been a suave operator. A college drop out, Senthil Balaji started his political career first in MDMK. Later he joined DMK and in 1996 he was elected as a councillor in the local body polls. In the year 2000, he joined ADMK and was made ADMK District Student Wing secretary.
He was given a ticket for the Assembly polls in 2006 and he got elected. With his impressive political activities against the then DMK government, Jayalalitha rewarded him with Karur ADMK District Secretary in 2007. He got re-elected in 2011 and was made the Transport Minister. His economic situation before 2011 was so pathetic that, ADMK’s mouth piece wrote a letter to him to settle the outstanding dues of Rs. 95,150/- on 13.05.2010. Now, Senthil Balaji is one of the crorepatis in DMK.
Senthil Balaji understood the nuances of the Transport department and huge potential to mint money in the recruitment for transport corporations. He decided to go for the killing. Posts were literally auctioned and Senthil Balaji’s touts spread across the state and started collecting money from job aspirants.
All those who paid bribe were not given jobs and Senthil Balaji was sacked from the Minister post by Jayalalitha on 27 July 2015. Following the sacking of Senthil Balaji, those who paid bribe understood that they may not get jobs and started asking for return of money.
One Devasagayam, a job aspirant who paid money and did not get appointment order, filed a complaint with the Chennai City Police that he has been cheated. Following the complaint, FIR was registered in Cr. No. 441 of 2015 for cheating against certain staff of the Transport Corporations.
One more victim one Gopi also filed a complaint that he along with others have paid a sum of Rs.2.31 crores to Senthil Balaji, through Senthil Balaji’s brother Ashok Kumar. But, no case was registered in this regard. Gopi moved the Madras High Court for a direction to police and on 20.06.2016 the Madras High Court directed the police to register a case. The court understood that there is more than what meets the eye and observed as follows.
“Learned counsel further contended that the said Devasagayam, on whose complaint the FIR has been registered has somersaulted, because he has been won over by the accused. In the considered opinion of this Court, that cannot absolve an accused from criminal liability just because the de facto complainant had joined hands with the accused. After giving the complaint dated 04.04.2015, this petitioner has sent the present representation dated 07.03.2016 in a representative capacity with the signature of other victims. As stated earlier, even in the representation dated 07.03.2016, the petitioner has merely stated that a sum of Rs.2,31,20,000/- was given to the Minister during January and March 2015, but has not given the date on which the amount was handed over, which is very crucial in a case of receipt of illegal gratification under the provisions of PC Act”
Even after these observations, the police failed to investigate the role of Senthil Balaji and filed charge sheet against 12 staff members of transport corporation and a few private individuals. The role of Senthil Balaji was never probed. A charge sheet against these 12 people for cheating was filed.
Subsequently another complainant, RB Arun Kumar moved the Madras High Court against the charge sheet filed by CCB and sought further probe. The Madras High Court in its order dated 27 November 2019, expressed displeasure with the investigation conducted by the CCB. It said the earlier orders of the court have been ignored and directed the CCB to conduct a fresh investigation under the supervision of a Deputy Commissioner of Police.
Only from here troubles for Senthil Balaji begun. A special team was formed and the team under the supervision of DC, started conducting searches and arrests. During the searches, several incriminating documents, digital evidence were seized. An analysis of the evidence and interrogation of a few accused in this case clearly established that Senthil Balaji was the kingpin of this entire job racket.
Investigation disclosed that appointment orders were issued only to those whose names were sent from the office of Senthil Balaji. Appointment orders were first issued and later the interview and academic marks of the successful job aspirants were tampered with. In certain cases, meritorious candidates who had scored high marks both in academic and interview were disregarded. No 200 point roster system was followed and all appointment orders were issued as per the whims of Senthil Balaji.
As investigation progressed, the special team found that for all the posts, 12,765 persons attended the interview out of which 7751 were eligible. Senthil Balaji’s office selected the candidates, obviously after receiving money for 2209 candidates.
Understanding the complexity of the investigation the special team decided to file separate charge sheets for each category. First they took up the Junior Engineer category.
The total number of vacancies for the post of Junior Engineer was arrived at 13 initially. Subsequently, without getting sanction from the government for additional posts the number of vacancies in the Junior Engineer cadre was mysteriously increased to 33. The reason cited for increase in the number of vacancies was retirement and transfer, whereas there was no basis for such an increase.
The entire recruitment process was conducted without following the established rules and procedures. Even reservation was not followed in any of the recruitments.
Appointment orders were issued to the following 33 people by the department. Each and every one of the successful candidates were appointed only after clearance by Senthil Balaji himself as per the documentary and digital evidence collected by the investigative authorities. After appointment orders were issued, as per the instructions of Senthil Balaji, the Daily Register which records the marks of the candidates who attended the interview were altered in a manner which shows as if the selected candidates got more marks than those who were not selected.
Marks obtained in the interview can be manipulated as it is the discretion of the Board Member who conducts the interview. How can the marks obtained by a candidate in his college be changed ?.
To cite one example for the humongous scam, one Nambi Venkatesh applied for the post of Junior Engineer. He has a diploma in Mechanical Engineering. He had scored 83% in the DME. He completed apprenticeship in TVS Madurai and is fully qualified for appointment. He obtained full marks – 25 out of 25 in the personal interview. Taking 75% of his academic mark (62.25) and his interview mark, he got a cut off of 87.25. This is the highest mark obtained by any candidate in the selection process. However, Nambi Venkatesh was never given appointment.
Another case is still pathetic. Prithvirajan had obtained 87.92 in his Diploma course. 75% of this works out to 65.94. He scored 17 out of 25 in the interview and his cut off is 82.94. He too was one of the top scorer in the interview process. He too was denied appointment. Whereas, all those 33 Junior Engineers who had been selected got very poor marks both in academic and in interview. Prithvirajan is a physically challenged person. He had obtained high marks and is eligible to be obtained in OC category. Further as 33 appointments were done, being physically challenged, Prithvirajan is also eligible for appointment under ‘physically challenged quota”.
Compare this with the case of R.Naresh Kumar who got appointment. He got just 3 marks in the interview out of 25. His interview mark was altered as 16 and he was appointed. K.Gowthaman got 12 marks in the interview and his marks were altered to 24. S.Arunkumar one of the selected got 13 marks in interview and his marks were altered to 25 and he was appointed. In some of the cases, academic marks were also altered to fit in those selected as per Senthil Balaji’s list.
After completion of investigation, the Central Crime Branch filed its first charge sheet in respect of Junior Engineers category alone before the Special Court for MLA / MPs. A total number of 47 accused have been arraigned and Senthil Balaji is the accused No.1.
Three candidates who are top scorers in the selection process for Junior Engineer approached the Madras High Court. In a counter affidavit filed in this WP, the Investigating Officer had this to say.
“Further investigation conducted based on the orders of the Court has been completed only with respect to the recruitment of 33 Junior Engineers and the final report has been filed in the court. Though some of the selected candidates have secured high marks, they were appointed only based on the list sent by former Transport Minister Senthil Balaji and not for the reason of their good marks. All the 33 selected Junior Engineers have been added as accused apart from 14 public servants (including Senthil Balaji & his touts). Once the investigation is completed with respect to all the categories of posts, more number of aggrieved candidates are expected to knock the doors of this Hon’ble Court seeking justice, which has been overthrown for pecuniary advantage by the public servants, who are guardians of the Constitution and living their life at the cost of tax-payers’ money…..
Investigation on the recruitment of Assistant Engineers is being conducted and in this process too, meritorious candidates’ marks were manipulated and non-meritorious candidates have been appointed as AEs. All these Assistant Engineers would be promoted and function as Managing Directors of Transport Corporations.
If ineligible candidates are appointed in lieu of meritorious candidates for pecuniary advantage, this would take a huge toll on the function of Transport Corporations in the state which are already in the verge of bankruptcy. If not now, the recruitment system in Transport Corporation can never be put in line”.
The bribe amount paid by each candidate for the Junior Engineer post is 10 to 12 lakhs. Sources say, the amount for Assistant Engineers are even higher. The rates collected for Assistant Engineers is between 12 to 16 lakhs. For drivers and conductors the amounts range from two to five lakhs.
More than 1800 drivers and conductors have also been appointed. Around 40 Assistant Engineers have been selected and appointed during the tenure of Senthil Balaji as Transport Minister. Do the math.
Of all the DMK MLAs, Stalin thought Senthil Balaji a party hopper as the fit person to hold the portfolios of Energy & Excise much to the chagrin of several party seniors.
In March 2021 the Chennai City Police’s Central Crime Branch filed charge sheet against Senthil Balaji and 46 others under sections 406 and 420 r/w 34 IPC @ 406, 419 and 420 r/w 34 IPC @ 120B, 465, 467, 471 & 201 IPC and 7, 12, 13(2) r/w and 13 (1) (d) of Prevention of Corruption Act,1988 and 109 IPC r/w 13 (2) r/w and 13 (1) (d) of PC Act. The charge sheet has been taken on file and summons have been issued to all the accused.
After becoming Minister Senthil Balaji’s attitude has completely changed and he is not attending the court citing official work. But, the Special Court Judge has categorically stated during the last hearing that just because the accused is a Minister no exemption from personal appearance has been granted.
Senthil Balaji has moved the Madras High Court to quash the charge sheet against him and the pending FIRs. Interestingly, both the defence and prosecution lawyers will be from DMK.
As stated by the I.O in his counter affidavit, investigation into the recruitment of Assistant Engineer, Junior Tradesman, Drivers and Conductors are continuing. Had the probe been allowed to continue unhindered, Senthil Balaji will be facing four more charge sheets in the MLA / MP Special Courts.
But that is unlikely to happen. Immediately after the new government assumed charge, all the Investigating Officers associated with this investigation have been transferred. The only officer remaining in this team is Ms. Nagajothy who is DC.I, CCB. Highly placed sources say, the purview of this investigation has also been taken away from her and handed over to DC.III, CCB who is an officer promoted from the rank of Sub-Inspector of Police. Sources also say that Ms. Nagajothy is on her way out of the CCB.
An Assistant Commissioner of Police who was looking after MKB Nagar range, was transferred and posted as the new I.O who knows nothing about these cases.
No political party including the ADMK has raked up this systematic sabotage of one of the huge job scams that happened in the state involving more than 800 crores. All the former Ministers & MLAs in ADMK are living in fear of corruption cases. Further, the scam of Senthil Balaji happened under Jayalalitha’s rule.
DMK’s allies including the left are conspicuously silent so that not to antagonise the big brother – DMK.
Chennai City Commissioner of Police Shankar Jiwal and Addl CoP PC Thenmozhi are bent upon to ensure that the cases against Senthil Balaji are given a ceremonious burial. Though the charge sheet in the recruitment for Assistant Engineers has been made ready, City CoP Shankar Jiwal is refusing to address the concerned authorities to obtain sanction to prosecute public servants which is mandatory under the PC Act. The file has been lying in his table for more than a month, add sources.
Senthil Balaji too, is meeting the witnesses in the above cases and is returning the money received by them in instalments. A source privy to the transactions said, Senthil Balaji has promised to return the entire amount collected as bribe and have asked the witnesses to turn hostile during the trial.
One of the conditions while granting anticipatory bail to Senthil Balaji by the Madras HC was that “Senthil Balaji sould not destroy evidence or abscond”. Senthil Balaji is returning money to the witnesses and asking them to turn hostile during the trial is a fit case for cancellation of anticipatory bail.
Even after 75 days in power, except former Transport Minister MR.Vijayabaskar, none of the top ADMK Ministers including EPS & OPS have been brought under the radar of DVAC. Since Stalin has chosen one of the scorchingly corrupt politician to be the most powerful minister in his cabinet, and has given legitimacy to corruption, it is better if the Directorate of Vigilance & Anti-Corruption is shut down and the staff re-deployed to other departments, instead of wasting tax payers money.
And this is the “corruption free” government that MK.Stalin is delivering.