The Madras High Court on Thursday reserved orders on petitions challenging a Tamil Nadu government order transferring the probe into idol theft cases to CBI as it orally observed that the decision amounted to contempt of court since a court-appointed team was investigating the matter.
A special division bench comprising Justice R Mahadevan and Justice PD Audikesavalu, dealing with idol theft cases, reserved the order after state Advocate General Vijay Narayan stoutly defended the August 1 G.O transferring the cases to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
The court had on August 8 stayed the G.O in its interim orders on the petitions filed by advocate Elephant Rajendran and social activist Traffic Ramaswamy, seeking to quash the order transferring the case.
Taking a serious view of the theft of antique idols, the court had in July last year directed the transfer of all pending cases in the state to a court in Kumbakonam, in Thanjavur district, from where a number of idols had been stolen, for effective and speedy disposal on day-to-day basis.
It had also quashed the transfer order of Inspector General of Police Pon Manickavel from the Idol Wing and directed him to constitute a team and continue investigation of the cases.
Meanwhile, the government on August 1 issued an order transferring the probe to the CBI, saying it was a policy decision.
When the matter came up for hearing on Thursday, the bench took a serious view and observed that as the high court had entrusted the investigation to the state Idol Wing CID, the government should not have transferred the cases to the CBI.
Mr Narayan, however, contended that there were enough and sufficient grounds for transferring the investigation.
He said in some cases, there were international and interstate ramifications and the investigation needed the cooperation of the central government agencies such as the Customs, embassies and foreign governments. And in some, the accused might need to be extradited from foreign nations.
The AG further submitted that the government was well within its powers in issuing the order and it was not for the court to decide the manner and agency to probe a case.
Wondering how many idol theft cases out of 113 needed the Centre's co-operation, the bench observed that the state should have consulted the Idol Wing CID and prepared a list of the cases that needed such assistance.
The state government was not justified in transferring all such cases to CBI, it said.
The Union government was supposed to inform the court on Friday of its decision on the CBI probe ordered by the state government.
However, its standing counsel said it needed more time to discuss the matter with the officials of CBI to arrive at a conclusion.
Refusing to give any more time, the bench reserved the order, granting liberty to the state to inform the court about the Centre's decision any time before the order was passed.
IG Manickavel, who is superannuating on November 30, thanked the court for providing the task to him and said he and his team members had discharged their duties to the best of their abilities.
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