February 21 2019
Gutkha scam probe hits a roadblock
19 December 2017

DVAC goes to court over storage devices

The probe into the multi-crore gutkha scam has hit a roadblock with the Income Tax department refusing to give the original storage devices seized from the premises of the manufacturer to the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC), police sources said on Monday.

While the contention of the DVAC, which is investigating the case based on a Madras High Court (Madurai Bench) order, is that the original laptop, hard disc, and pen drive were required to ensure that the evidence was not tampered with, the Investigation Wing of the Income Tax department seems to be reluctant to part with the original seizures.

Writ plea in HC

Not convinced with certified copies of the printouts taken from the storage devices, the DVAC has filed a writ petition in the Madras High Court, seeking access to the original storage devices, sources said.

Explaining why it was essential to access the original material evidence, a senior DVAC official said the Investigation Officer had to ensure that the technical evidence was not tampered with after the seizures were made. “This point has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt before filing the chargesheet. The stand of the Income Tax department that it will submit all material evidence at the time of the trial does not serve the purpose,” the official said.

Going by the statement of the gutkha manufacturer to investigators from the DVAC, it appeared that the books of accounts and other statements given by the Income Tax department were not “complete”.

“It appears to us that the documents made available do not corroborate fully with the statement of the suspect. The analysis of hash value is absolutely essential in this case,” the official said.

A hash value is a result of a calculation (hash algorithm) that can be performed on a string of text, electronic file or an entire hard drive. Each hashing algorithm uses a specific number of bytes to store a thumbprint of the contents. In case any changes are made to the original content, hash value analysis would help.

In June this year, The Hindu accessed the Income Tax report submitted to the Tamil Nadu government and exposed the scam. The report gave details of a State Minister, top police officials and others who allegedly accepted bribe from the manufacturer for facilitating the sale of the banned product.

While the State government maintained that there was no such report and even filed a affidavit in the Madras High Court (Madurai Bench) to that effect, the Income Tax department produced copies of the reports sent to the then Chief Secretary and the Director-General of Police along with acknowledgements, prompting the court to order a probe into the missing documents.

However, debunking the claim of the State, the then Chief Secretary P. Rama Mohana Rao, in a exclusive interview to The Hindu last week, confirmed the receipt of the Income Tax report and even added that the former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa wanted to take action against those involved in the scam after he sent a note to her. Replying to a questionnaire from the DVAC, Mr. Rao and the then DGP Ashok Kumar have apparently confirmed that they received copies of the report.



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