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The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on Wednesday, adjourned the pleadings in petitions brought by the Enforcement Directorate against the action of the High Court of Madras in which it has entertained a petition of habeas corpus filed against Senthil Balaji’s arrest, who is a Minister in Tamil Nadu. The petition filed in the Madras High Court had allowed the Tamil Nadu Minister to be admitted into a private hospital for medical care.
The hearing of the petitions was postponed by a vacation bench consisting of Justices Surya Kant and MM Sundresh because the Madras High Court is scheduled to hear the case tomorrow. Despite the Solicitor General of India’s persuasive arguments, the bench decided against making any substantial order and instead chose to wait for the result of the case in the High Court.
Arguments Advanced by Enforcement Directorate:
In a habeas corpus plea submitted by Senthil Balaji’s wife, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta objected to the High Court issuing an interim order. He argued on behalf of ED. He contended that an arrest was made by legal authority as per the legal provisions. Therefore, a habeas corpus petition against the same is not maintainable.
He emphasised that the petitioner had argued before the High Court that the arrest was unlawful since notice required by Section 41A of the CrPC had not been given. However, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Vijay Madanlal Choudhary that procedures under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act are not covered by Section 41A of the Criminal Procedure Code.
The Secretary-General further argued that it was unlawful for the High Court to entertain the habeas corpus petition. The bench responded to this argument that the High Court has yet to rule that the petition is not maintainable. The bench clarified that considering the petition does not mean that it is upheld as maintainable.
Justice Kant inquired as to whether the SC could issue a “pre-emptive order” on the assumption that the High Court had determined that the petition was maintainable. When the SG contended that the High Court’s approach conflicts with the Supreme Court’s established rule in the Rahul Modi case, the bench replied that the ED can bring up these points before the HC.
The SG then addressed his second issue concerning the temporary order that permitted Balaji to be transferred to a private hospital. He contended that the interim order effectively rendered the ED’s remand useless.
The SG further argued that the police remand cannot be granted after the initial 15 days of arrest due to the SC ruling in the Anupam J. Kulkarni case. Bringing out the contradiction in this perspective, the SG called for an explanation to be issued that the days spent in hospital care will not be considered in the initial fifteen-day period. However, the bench clarified, the High Court is currently considering the petition.
Balaji’s senior attorney, Neeraj Kishan Kaul, said that the High Court had left every matter open. He emphasised that Balaji had 4 cardiac blockages and was currently recovering from surgery.
Background of the Case:
On June 13, the ED arrested Balaji for his association with the Cash-for-Job Scam, which is said to have occurred between 2011 and 2016 while serving as the AIADMK government’s Transport Minister. His family subsequently filed a habeas corpus petition disputing the circumstances surrounding his arrest and requesting authorization to take him to Kauvery Hospital for medical care.
The family of Balaji filed a Habeas Corpus petition in opposition to the ED’s arrest of him. The Madras High Court has scheduled the case for hearing on June 22, 2023.
On June 15, Despite denying interim release to Balaji, the Madras High Court approved his family’s plea to have him treated at the private Kauvery Hospital. Following an 18-hour-long thorough search and questioning at his official home, his formal chamber at the State Secretariat, and his brother’s home on June 13, Balaji was taken into custody by the ED.
Balaji was taken into custody by the ED early on Wednesday morning as a result of the search. The searches were done concerning a Cash-for-Job Scam that reportedly took place between 2011 and 2016 while Balaji served as the AIADMK government’s Transport Minister.
In November of last year, the Madras High Court issued an order for a further investigation into the scheme after finding inconsistencies. At that time, the High Court had also denied the Minister’s request for discharge, stating that there was sufficient evidence to support a charge and that the case would have a significant social impact.
The High Court order and a High Court directive halting the E D proceedings were then set aside by the SC. The inclusion of the offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act was approved by the top court, allowing the agency to move forward with the investigation.