The Tamil Nadu government has told the Madras High Court that a police officer, wanted for his alleged role in an illegal sale of ancient idols worth Rs 20 crore, has been suspended and efforts were on to nab him.
Recording the submission, Justice R Mahadevan reserved orders on a petition seeking transfer of the idol sale case from the Idol Wing of the police department to Crime-Branch CID.
Special government pleader M Maharaja and Additional Public Prosecutor C Emilias submitted to the bench that the the erstwhile Inspector Kader Batcha, later promoted to the rank of deputy superintendent of police, was suspended. They also produced a copy of his suspension order.
The law officers told the court that steps were being taken to arrest the absconding DySP, while the police would proceed further with the probe and take steps to recover the idols.
It was also stated that the DGP had issued a circular allocating 20 police personnel, including a DySP, police inspector and sub-inspector to the Idol Wing.
Another accused in the case, Subraj, a constable then and now a sub-inspector, has already been arrested.
The judge had yesterday directed Inspector General of Police (Idol Wing) Pon Manikavel, who appeared before him in response to a June 27 oral order seeking information about the case, to arrest the personnel involved in the illegal sale of two 'panchaloha' (five metal) idols eight years ago.
The judge had also raised probing questions on the action taken so far and sought to know why the accused had not been arrested so far.
He had also directed the IG to provide information on the available strength of the Idol Wing and its requirements.
According to petitioner Elephant Rajendran, an advocate, the idols were sold to a smuggler in 2008 allegedly by Batcha and Subraj for Rs 15 lakh.
The policemen had recovered the idols from two persons accused of attempting to sell them to a foreigner, but they allegedly did not record the seizure.
On a complaint from Idol Wing DySP Ashok Natarajan, criminal cases were later registered against Batcha and Subraj, it submitted, adding it was pending before a court in Srivilliputhur in Virudhunagar district.
The accused have not been suspended, it said.
The petitioner said the matter came to his knowledge in April this year by way of a letter left on his car.
Stating that the case cannot be effectively handled by an inspector of the wing since Batcha's rank was higher than that of the investigating officer, he sought its transfer to the CB-CID.
Contending that the protectors of antique had committed a crime, the petitioner said there was every chance that the accused could escape from the clutches of law.