At a time Markandey Katju has turned the spotlight on corruption in judiciary, the way a serving judge of the Madras High Court seems engaged in gross misuse of power for selfish ends should be a great story. Newspapers and TV channels should be falling over each other to get to the bottom of it all.
But no, Justce C T Selvam continues to proclaim he is a law unto himself and imperiously orders the executive to shut down this popular blog Savukku that keeps exposing him.
In this latest saga, the venerable judge has issued a contempt notice to his own cousin Martin who has accused him of misusing his powers in an intra-famly property dispute.
Even more interesting the judge has the gall to take up the case when it is allotted to another judge, still no one seems to be objecting except for the aggrieved cousin.
|A.T.Panneerselvam in the left.|
A.T.Panneerselvam (on the left) was a leader of the Justice Party of the pre-Independence days that fought Brahmin domination in various spheres in the then Madras presidency. The well-known iconoclast Periyar E.V.Ramasamy and his Dravidian movement could be said to be an offshoot of the Justice Party.
You can get some idea of the late Mr Panneerselvam here
You can get some idea of the late Mr Panneerselvam here
Most Justice Party leaders were big feudal lords, and so was Panneerselvam who hailed from Thanjavur district – generally considered the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu though the continuing Cauvery dispute has meant a steep fall in rice production in the area.
To get back to the story, Panneerselvam dies in an air-crash in 1940. He left behind three sons and three daughters.
Apparently the sons divided the landed properties among themselves, and the sisters didn’t object.
The lands still with the Panneerselvam family are now under the control of Justice C T Selvam, his sister Fathima, the grandchildren of Sir A T Panneerselvam through his second son Albert Arulselvam and Martin Selvam, born to another son of the late Justice Party leader.
Now the legal heirs to the daughters of who migrate abroad suddenly descend on Thanjavur and stake their claim three years ago. For reasons not clear, they confront only Martin Selvam not CT Selvam over the issue.
Anyway we don’t have the judge’s version of the story. What is known is that Martin resists his two cousins from Australia.
He says the lands have been leased out. In any case he has spent a lot of money in developing and maintain them. So if the new claimants want them, they should compensate him adequately.
As the issue goes to the court, the Australian cousins complain to local police of harassment and intimidation by Martin. They do so in such a fashion that a lot of Martin’s time is taken up in fighting out the cases and appearing before the police.
When in January last year, paddy was ready for harvest, the dispute further intensifies. A local revenue official orders the harvest be conducted under the supervision of a designated official and the money realized from the sale of the produce deposited with the treasury till the property dispute is sorted out.
But Jerome Royappan, one of the two from Australia, appeals to the High Court against the revenue official’s ruling, and Justice Rajendran orders the harvest be carried out by Jerome Royappan under the supervision of a lawyer deputed by the court and police grant necessary protection.
Over how much land the court permitted Jerome Royappan to harvest, it is not clear. We were unable to contact him. But those speaking on behalf of Martin Selvam claimed while the dispute was only over 11.20 acres of land, Jerome was able to harvest the produce over as many as 78 acres that day, because he enjoyed the full support of the local police.
Martin was not heard when Justice Rajendran issued his orders and when Jerome’s men (and women) get into the land to harvest, Martin is helpless, it is claimed. But he manages to videograph the entire process.
Now Martin learns that Justice Selvam had been in touch with Jerome Royappan right through the day of harvest. He had made several calls from two telephones listed under the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court.
So Martin moves the Madras High Court demanding calls records of the two landlines of Madurai bench, 0452-2433237 and 0452-243328 and makes Justice Selvam one of the respondents in the case.
|Contempt order issued by Justice C.T.Selvam|
He directs that Martin present himself before the Selvam court the very next day. Martin’s counsel appears before Selvam but and faults his orders on various counts, but the judge shrugs them off and orders that Martin appear before him during the next hearing slated for July 10.
Again Martin’s side argues neither civil or criminal contempt can be made out against him and that in any case when Mr Selvam himself is a respondent, how could he take suo motu cognizance and initiate contempt proceedings. As per norms, it is the Chief Justice who can decide which judge can hear such a case.
But an angry Selvam dismisses the contentions and issues a non-bailable warrant of arrest against Martin and orders that he be produced before the court on. But on appeal, a division bench of the Madras High Court stays the contempt proceedings.
Looks like Jerome Royappan, the Australian cousin has the full backing of the judiciary and the local police.
Now whatever the justness or otherwise of his claims and Martin’s, clearly it is a matter to be adjudicated upon as per law. But how could Selvam could bring the full weight of the court on one of the two contending parties.
More important how could he arrogate to himself the right to hear a case against himself and issue contempt notice?
It is this self-same Selvam who ordered closure of the Savukku blog site in when hearing a case of defamation.
Savukku has published pictures of Selvam with DMK chief Karunanidhi and also noted his dubious rulings when Karunanidhi’s grandson sought a bail in the granite scam that rocked the case last year.
A key accused, a well-known mining baron, is still in prison – he has spent months there, while the case has not reached the trial stage yet. Dayanidhi meanwhile is busy making films.
Savukku has highlighted many of the commissions and omissions of Justice Selvam on various occasions, and has been slapped with closure notice.
But those behind Savukku have enough ingenuity to keep the blog up and running even though the cybercrime police has been shutting down one site after another. The cat and mouse game still goes on while a public interest litigation petition has been filed in the Madras High Court challenging Selvam’s orders. That case is also dragging along..
The point is when Selvam is the person charged with unethical conduct by a website, he turns on the site itself and seeks to close it down for good.
When his cousin charges with him with misuse of judicial powers, Selvam wants him hauled up for contempt.
The media is silent and there is no word from the Registry on what is happening.
It may also be recalled here another judge of this court, S Karnan, chooses to hear a mineral-sand-mining case listed under another judge and has reserved orders !
Still the happenings in the Tamil wonderland do not evoke the curiosity of anyone here. Can it get any curiouser than this?