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Nallamma Naidu, investigating officer in disproportionate assets case against Jayalalithaa, dies

It was his meticulous probe, evidence gathering that led to convictions in the case


N. Nallamma Naidu, former superintendent of police, Directorate of Vigilance & Anti-Corruption (DVAC), who investigated the disproportionate assets case against former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa, Sasikala and others, died on Tuesday, in Chennai.

Naidu, 82, complained of breathlessness shortly after midnight, at his home in Kilpauk. He was rushed to a private hospital, where he was declared brought dead.

Chief Minister M.K. Stalin visited his family and offered condolences.

It was Naidu's meticulous investigation and evidence gathering in the disproportionate assets case that led to the conviction of the accused.

Naidu began his journey as a cop when he joined the force as a sub-inspector with the Tamil Nadu Police in 1965. In a few years, he became an inspector. He spent most of his career with DVAC. It was in the late 1980s, when V.N. Janaki’s government was dismissed and the state came under President Rule, that DVAC was given increased powers. There was a time when Naidu would go around in an ambassador car, which had the registration number 144. Whenever 'Ambassador 144' entered a government office premises, the officers were said to be palpably agitated or nervous.

He was one of the two DSPs at the Chennai City one (CC1) unit in the DVAC for over 13 years. Naidu was promoted as additional superintendent of police in 1995.

Naidu and his team at the DVAC were considered highly experienced in investigating corruption cases.

Police officers from the neighbouring states used to come to Chennai to get inputs from him in investigating corruption cases.

The turning point in his life came in 1996, when a complaint against Jayalalithaa was lodged under Section 200 of CrPc by Dr Subramanian Swamy in a Chennai court. The complaint alleged that Jayalalithaa had amassed wealth beyond her source of income. The judge directed the then director of DVAC, Latika Saran, to make an enquiry and file a report.

While the enquiry was on, Jayalalithaa and the other accused approached the High Court and obtained a stay. But the stay got vacated in a month. Naidu was roped in as the investigating officer on January 1, 1996. “I made some preliminary inquiry and submitted a report to the director, In turn the director obtained orders to register a separate case and carry on with the investigation. On 18.9.1996 the then IG, V.C. Perumal, registered a FIR in crime number 13/96/AC/HQ and directed me to investigate. He had also issued two authorisation letters under Section 17 and 18 of Prevention of Corruption Act; one was for investigation and another for perusal of documents and lands,” Naidu told THE WEEK in 2017.

However, the investigation as not easy. Naidu ran from pillar to post to collect evidence. He would spend days together in the storage of the bank, as there were no computers to check the transactions to collect documentary evidence against Jayalalithaa and others. Naidu came up with 20,000 documents running into one lakh pages, and of this he submitted 2,400 documents in the court as evidence.

He had faced bomb threats. After one such threat call, his wife, daughter and her newborn baby was forced to sit for hours on the pavement until the bomb squad cleared that it was a hoax call. Even his friends and relatives tried to warn him against continuing with the investigation, but nothing would deter him.

After the government change in 2001, things turned tough for Naidu—most of the witnesses recanted their statements and the trial court seemed hostile. IG Perumal said he did not authorise Naidu to carry on with the investigation. But Latika Saran stepped in and said Naidu was authorised by the DVAC to probe the disproportionate assets case. There were days when Naidu broke down in the court, standing in the witness box after the government changed in 2001.

In mid 2017, when THE WEEK met him at his home in Chennai, the 79-year old retired police officer was all smiles. He was suffering from diabetes and his legs were swollen. But the illness was not powerful enough fog the thoughts of a man who once turned the political tables against Jayalalithaa, through his investigation.

Naidu told THE WEEK how he never developed a cold feet during the searches inside the Poes Garden house of Jayalalithaa, and how he meticulously planned and carried out the searches.

Naidu’s life is an example of how it is never easy for an honest investigating officer, especially when probing those in power.

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