Gutka scam: Stalin demands arrest of health minister, DGP

Chennai: Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president MK Stalin on Friday demanded arrest of Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijay Bhaskar and Director General of Police (DGP) TK Rajendran for allegedly taking bribe in connection with the Gutka scam.

“Bribe-giver and middleman arrested; but even after raids why is CBI hesitating to arrest Minister C Vijay Bhaskar and DGP TK Rajendran who allegedly took bribes?” Stalin asked on Twitter.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday had arrested five people in connection with the scam. Those arrested included promoters of a private Gutka company AV Madhava Rao and Uma Shankar Gupta, food safety and drug administration official P Senthil Murugan, Superintendent of Central Excise Department NK Pandian and a person named PV Srinivasa Rao.

All of them were sent to judicial custody till September 20.
The CBI had on Wednesday conducted searches at 35 locations across the country including Chennai, Tiruvallur, Thoothukudi, Puducherry, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Guntur in connection with the case.

The places searched were residential premises of the promoters/directors of a company and other public servants including officials of Sales Tax department, Customs and Central Excise, Food Safety and Drug Administration department and jurisdictional police officials.

The CBI had earlier registered a case on the orders of the Madras High Court dated April 26. The court had directed the CBI to conduct an investigation into all aspects of the offence of alleged illegal manufacture, import, supply, distribution and sale of Gutka and other forms of chewable tobacco which are banned in Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

It was alleged that the private company, based in Tamil Nadu was in the business of manufacturing and sale of Gutka and other chewable tobacco products since 2011.
Subsequently, production and sale of Gutka was banned in May 2013. During the period when the ban was in force, the promoters/directors of the said company allegedly paid bribes to regulatory authorities and continued with the business of manufacturing and selling of Gutka products illicitly.

The scam surfaced in July 2016 when the Income Tax (IT) department raided various properties of a Gutka manufacturer, who was accused of evading taxes of Rs 250 crore.