CHENNAI: A multi-crore land purchase from a wanted history-sheeter, Sridhar of Kancheepuram district, has put a top textile group in a fix, as the Enforcement Directorate has attached the property and the Madras high court has declined to come to the rescue of the business group.
Pothys Private Limited of T Nagar bought a 12,945sqft land in Kancheepuram for Rs 6.47 crore from Sridhar’s wife Kumari and daughter Dhanalakshmi in 2010 and 2016 respectively. Sridhar is wanted in connection with 25 criminal cases for offences ranging from murder to criminal intimidation. So much so that Justice P N Prakash, who dismissed the petition, said the range of cases covered by penal code would make even Macaulay turn in his grave. (Indian Penal Code, a comprehensive code covering all aspects of criminal law, was drafted in 1860 on the recommendation of a law commission headed by Thomas Babington Macaulay).
“Sridhar is an outlaw and is said to be hiding in the Middle East, presumably in Dubai,” Justice Prakash said, pointing out that neither Sridhar nor his wife were income tax assessees. “The deputy director of ED had sufficient reason to believe that the properties sold by Kumari and Dhanalakshmi were fruits of the poisonous tree acquired with the proceeds of crime committed by Sridhar,” he said, upholding the attachment order dated September 2, 2016.
But, by then, Pothys had purchased the property, and its senior counsel B Kumar questioned the attachment saying it was a bona fide deal for a valuable consideration.
The judge said the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) was intended to economically suffocate criminals, and added: “The PMLA seeks to fell two mangoes in one stone – one to send a stern message to offenders that they cannot enjoy the fruits of their labour; and two, to dissuade innocent purchasers from entering into any deal for purchase of properties from shady characters.”
He said that in the long run, people would scrutinise not only the legal title documents of a property but also would take efforts to find out if their vendor is a person above reproach.
Citing Section 5 of the PMLA, Justice Prakash said: “Even if there is one cause which is sufficient for the deputy director to believe that a particular property is proceeds of a crime, action under Section 5 can be initiated. This court cannot step into the shoes of the deputy director and appraise the material that formed the basis for initiating action.”
“Before taking action under Section 5, the deputy director has conducted a thorough inquiry by issuing summons to Sridhar, his wife, younger brother, his daughter and Ramesh Pothy. She has also recorded the statement of the Pothys. Only thereafter she initiated the proceedings. Therefore, this court cannot say that there are no sufficient materials for her to proceed.”
Since all materials along with show cause notice and complaint copy had been given to Pothys, it could appear before the ED’s adjudicating authority for remedy, Justice Prakash said.
Credits ET Realty