SC dismisses plea by Senthil Balaji, wife challenging ED custody

SC dismisses plea by Senthil Balaji, wife challenging ED custody


On Monday (7 August), the Supreme Court dismissed the petitions filed by Tamil Nadu Minister Senthil Balaji and his wife Megala challenging the custody sought by the Enforcement Directorate in the money laundering case. The apex court also allowed ED to have the custody of Minister Balaji till 12 August in the cash-for-jobs scam case.

Two separate petitions were filed by Minister Balaji and his wife Megala before the apex court. The petitions challenged the Madras High Court order dated 14th of July. The High Court had held that the ED was entitled to take Balaji into police custody. The apex court also rejected their plea in which they had contended that the arrest by the ED was illegal. 

The two judge-bench of Justices A S Bopanna and M M Sundresh also held that a writ of habeas corpus was not maintainable against the arrest by the ED. The court held that an order of remand cannot be challenged in a habeas corpus petition. However, the court added that in case of violation of any procedure for arrest as prescribed in Section 19 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), then action can be taken against the concerned officer.

The 2-judge bench cited the earlier Supreme Court order passed in the Anupam Kulkarni case. In that case, the court had held that police custody is not permissible beyond the first 15 days of remand. However, citing this judgement, the bench has referred the issue of extension of police custody beyond the first 15 days to a larger bench for reconsideration.

Tamil Nadu Minister of Electricity, Prohibition and Excise Senthil Balaji was arrested on the 14th of June but he still continues to be a minister without portfolio in the M K Stalin government. The Enforcement Directorate arrested him in connection with the cash-for-jobs scam which surfaced in 2015 in the state’s transport department. During the 2011-16 AIADMK government, Balaji was the transport minister.

He was arrested after the Supreme Court’s order in May had overturned the Madras High Court’s decision in which the High Court had halted the proceedings in the money laundering case against him.

On the day of arrest, the ED interrogated him for almost 18 hours and searched his official residence and chamber at the state Secretariat before making the arrest. 

Following his arrest, his wife Megala filed a habeas corpus petition before the High Court on the day of his arrest and argued that the arrest and detention were illegal. The High Court didn’t grant him interim bail. Later, a two-judge division bench of the High Court delivered a split verdict in the habeas corpus plea. Following the split verdict, the third judge in the case, Justice CV Karthikeyan, ruled in favour of the ED. 

Today’s order from Supreme Court is a major setback for Tamil Nadu Minister, who would have to remain in ED custody for another 5 days till 12 August. 


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