TN Minister arrest: 'Suspicion of guilt enough for ED to arrest accused in PMLA case'

HC reserves verdict in habeas corpus petition filed by wife of Senthil Balaji in money laundering case
Senthil Balaji
Senthil Balaji

CHENNAI:  Following the conclusion of the arguments on Tuesday, the Madras High Court reserved the orders on a habeas corpus petition (HCP) filed by minister V Senthil Balaji’s wife Megala alleging illegal detention and arrest of her husband by the enforcement directorate.

Granting time till Wednesday for both sides to submit written arguments, the bench of Justices J Nisha Banu and D Bharatha Chakravarthy reserved the orders on the HCP challenging the arrest made by the ED on the wee hours of June 14 on money laundering charges.

Top legal brains - Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta and Mukul Rohatgi - advanced the arguments for ED and the petitioner respectively. Senior counsel and Rajya Sabha MP NR Elango, also appearing for Megala, began the arguments by placing the response to an additional counter-affidavit filed by ED.

Reiterating that the arrest was illegal and the subsequent judicial custody ordered by the principal sessions court was done “without application of mind”, he questioned how could the ED attach mobile screenshots and copies of email communication on the arrest memo and grounds of arrest claimed to have sent at 8.15 am on June 14 to Senthil Balaji’s brother Ashok Kumar, relative and friends on the documents showing the arrest effected at 1.39 am on the same day. 

Elango also said the documents on the arrest reached the principal sessions judge on June 16 instead of June 14 and it showed there was no application of mind. Tushar Mehta, at the outset, assailed the maintainability of the HCP saying no court says that a writ of HCP can be issued after the arrest and the remand is done and noted that the remand order was not challenged.

On the powers of ED to arrest an accused and take him in custody for interrogation, the SG said, “Section 19 of PMLA provides for the powers to the director, deputy director, or assistant director or any other officer authorised on their behalf has, on the basis of material in his possession, reason to believe, the reasons for such belief can be recorded in writing, that any person guilty of an offence punishable under this Act, he may arrest such person.”

 Tushar Mehta said serious, cogent materials were collected to arrest Senthil Balaji and the statements of his personal assistant with the co-accused were incriminating for the arrest. He was served with the arrest intimation and grounds for arrest but he refused to acknowledge them. Even the Supreme Court had observed it was not a political vendetta, the SG said, adding even the apex court had granted custodial interrogation to ED. 

Countering the contention of ED that the minister was faking illness, senior counsel Rohatgi said, “It is not a case of feigning or dodging. He has undergone bypass surgery. Nobody manoeuvres to get a bypass surgery.”

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