Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijayabaskar on Wednesday faced the second central agency probe in two years, with the CBI knocking at his doors after the Income Tax raid last year.
C Vijayabaskar is the first state minister in the present government to come under the IT and CBI scanner, with both the raids being carried out in the post-Jayalalithaa era.
The health minister, state police chief TK Rajendran and a former senior police official were among those whose premises were searched by the CBI on Wednesday as part of its probe into the Gutka scam, involving alleged payments to officials by a gutka manufacturer.
The raids began around 7 AM with the sleuths swooping down on the premises of those under its radar. The minister could not be contacted for a response, even as his residence remained out of bounds for the media.
The Income Tax sleuths had visited him as part of coordinated state-wide searches in April last year over alleged tax evasion. The IT raids were conducted in full media glare following information that black money was allegedly being pumped in for the RK Nagar assembly bypoll scheduled that month.
The April 12 bypoll, necessitated following the death of chief minister J Jayalalithaa in December, 2016, was later rescinded by the Election Commission over complaints of money distribution.
Rajendran, said to be the first serving police chief to face CBI raids, also could not be contacted. Sources in the state police headquarters said he has not come to office ‘so far.’
The DMK, PMK and CPI(M) have demanded the minister’s ouster from the cabinet and also wanted the government to remove Rajendran as DGP.
The Gutka scam came to light on July 8, 2017, when income tax sleuths raided the godown, offices and residences of a pan masala and gutka (a concoction of tobacco and pan masala) manufacturer in Tamil Nadu, who had been facing charges of tax evasion to the tune of Rs 250 crore.
The manufacture, storage and sale of the chewable forms of tobacco, including gutka and pan masala were banned by the Tamil Nadu government in 2013.
During the raids, the IT department sleuths had seized a diary containing names of those who had been allegedly paid by the gutka manufacturers.
The case was sent to the CBI by the Madras High Court in April this year on the plea of a DMK leader. This was challenged in the Supreme Court by a Tamil Nadu health official but the apex court sided with the order of the Madras High Court and asked the agency to register a case.
(With inputs from agencies)
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