Balakrishna Reddy resigns, hands over portfolio to Sengottaiyan

P Balakrishna Reddy

Chennai: Hours after he was sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment by a special court here in a two-decades old riot case, Tamilnadu minister P Balakrishna Reddy Monday resigned from the K Palaniswami cabinet.

The case is related to a protest against illicit liquor at Hosur in 1998. Reddy submitted his resignation to Chief Minister K Palaniswami who forwarded it to Governor Banwarilal Purohit who has accepted it.

His portfolio of Youth Welfare and Sports Development has been handed over to School Education minister K A Sengottaiyan. “..Governor of Tamil Nadu has accepted the resignation of P Balakrishna Reddy, from the Council of Ministers,” a Raj Bhavan release said Monday night.

“Based on the recommendation of the Chief Minister, the Portfolio of Youth Welfare and Sports Development has been allocated to K A Sengottaiyan, Minister for School Education who shall be re-designated as Minister for School Education, Youth Welfare and Sports Development,” the release said.

In a jolt to the AIADMK government, a special court Monday sentenced Reddy to three years rigorous imprisonment in a two-decades-old riot case related to a protest against illicit liquor in Hosur.

Youth Welfare and Sports Minister Reddy, then a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member, was convicted by special judge for cases against MPs and MLAs J Shanthi in the case related to the protest staged on 30 September 1998.

The judge, however, accepted a plea of the minister’s counsel and stayed the sentence enabling him to file an appeal in the Madras High Court. Opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president M K Stalin demanded Reddy’s dismissal from the ministry, describing his conviction as a as a “shame” for the ruling AIADMK led by Chief Minister K Palaniswami.

K A Sengottaiyan

Besides Reddy, who represents Hosur constituency in the assembly, the court sentenced 14 others accused in the case to three years rigorous imprisonment. First accused Govinda Reddy, who had led the demonstration organised by the Krishnagiri unit of BJP, was sentenced to five years imprisonment.

All the accused, including the minister, were present in the court. Speaking to reporters later, the minister said he would file an appeal in the high court on Tuesday. “In 1998, over 30 people died after consuming spurious liquor. Following that a road blockade was held and the case was filed in connection with that,” he said.

Reddy faces disqualification as an MLA in view of the conviction unless it is stayed by a higher court. Under Section 8(3) of the RPA, a person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years shall be disqualified for that period and a further six years after release.

According to the prosecution, during the demonstration held by the locals in Hosur in Krishnagiri district, about 300 km from here, the protesters allegedly went on the rampage and clashed with police, damaging several vehicles.

Three policemen were grievously injured, five buses were destroyed in stone pelting and a police vehicle and a bike were burnt in the violence. Subsequently, an FIR was registered against 108 people, including Reddy, for various Indian Penal Code offences, including rioting and wrongful restraint and under the Tamilnadu Public Property (Prevention of Damage and Loss) Act.

During the pendency of the trial, as many as 27 accused died. Reddy, who was arraigned as the 72nd accused, had later joined the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). He was elected from the Hosur assembly constituency in the 2016 elections.

The trial, proceeding in a local court, was transferred to the special court set up in September last year following a Supreme Court order to expedite cases against elected representatives.

In its first conviction, the special court had on 28 December held former DMK MLA guilty in a rape case and sentenced him to ten years rigorous imprisonment.