The Madras High Court on Friday upheld a trial court order sentencing M Natarajan, husband of jailed AIADMK leader V K Sasikala, and three others to two years imprisonment in a 23-year-old duty evasion case connected to import of a luxury car from the UK.
Natarajan and three others were convicted of conspiracy, forgery, cheating and tax evasion and sentenced to two years in jail in the case by a CBI court in 2010. All the four challenged the order.
When the pleas came up today, Justice G Jayachandran said there is ample evidence placed before the court by the prosecution to show that these accused were involved in cheating the government by producing forged documents. Dismissing their petitions, the judge directed the trial court to secure the accused and remand them to judicial custody to undergo the remaining period of the sentence, if any.
The Lexus car with engine capacity of 3000 cc which is not in compliance with the residence transfer provision has been imported with fabricated documents, the judge said.
The provision clearly restricts the import of car above 1600 cc by Indian nationals or foreign nationals of Indian origin coming to India for permanent settlement, unless the said importer has stayed abroad continuously for a period of at least two years and had used the car at least for one year before the date of import, the judge said.
The court noted that many senior customs officials who were part of the "conspiracy" were not prosecuted in the case. "It is unfortunate that senior customs officers who were the members of the conspiracy were not prosecuted, since the prosecuting agency was refused sanction by competent authority. This cannot be the reason to allow the other conspirators to go scot-free."
This court opines that this is high time to revisit the law mandating sanction under Prevention of Corruption Act, and subject it to judicial scrutiny, the judge said.
Similarly, refusal to accord sanction should also be subject to judicial scrutiny so that improper exercise of power by unscrupulous person shielding his subordinate shall be averted, the judge added.
The judge then directed the trial court to secure the accused and remand them to judicial custody to undergo the remaining period of the sentence, if any.
The case relates to the import of a Toyota Lexus car in 1994. Natarajan declared it as a used vehicle and thereby allegedly evaded tax to the tune of Rs 1.06 crore. The CBI and Enforcement Directorate had registered separate cases against Natarajan and three others after it was found that the documents presented by them were fabricated.
According to CBI, Natarajan, along with three others - his nephew V Bhaskaran, Yogesh Balakrishnan and Sujaritha Sundararajan - substituted the original sale invoice with a photocopy of an invoice fabricated by changing the vehicle's manufacturing date to July 1993.