The Madras high court on Thursday ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into a multi-crore scam allegedly involving state ministers and top police officials taking bribes to allow the manufacture and sale of banned gutkha in Tamil Nadu.

“The gutkha business is a crime against society and therefore we deem it fit to order a CBI probe into the issue," observed a division bench of chief justice Indira Banerjee and justice Abdul Quddhose, referring to the banned tobacco product.

The high court passed the order based on two public interest litigations filed by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MLA J. Anbazhagan and activist ‘Traffic’ K. R. Ramaswamy.

The matter is currently being investigated by the state government’s Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption (DVAC).

Investigations by the income tax (I-T) department in 2016 at a gutkha manufacturer’s godown in Tamil Nadu had revealed the alleged involvement of state ministers and top officials of the police department.

In January, the I-T department informed the Madras HC that its confidential letter seeking action against those involved in the gutkha scam was seized from a room occupied by V.K. Sasikala at the Poes Garden residence of late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa.

According to the affidavit, the I-T department had on August 11, 2016 written a letter to the then Tamil Nadu chief secretary Rama Mohan Rao and the DGP in connection with the scam. The letter was addressed to both of them, with copies of the relevant accounts from the seized materials, it said.

The Tamil Nadu state government had banned the manufacture, storage and sale of carcinogenic chewable forms of tobacco, including gutka and pan masala, in 2013.