Prima facie guilt found, ED can go ahead with probe against Senthil Balaji: Solicitor General
The answer is under Section 19 of PMLA the satisfaction of the investigation officer regarding guilt of the accused is only prima facie. And therefore, we can move forward and investigate”
CHENNAI: Solicitor General (SG) of India Tushar Mehta on Wednesday told the Madras High Court that finding guilt of accused in money laundering is prima facie and therefore the Enforcement Directorate (ED) can move forward with the probe.
Advancing arguments on behalf of the ED before Justice CV Karthikeyan, the third judge hearing the habeas corpus petition (HCP) filed by arrested minister V Senthil Balaji’s wife Megala, the SG said, “Petitioner is arguing when we have material against the accused person, why do we arrest or interrogate. The answer is under Section 19 of PMLA the satisfaction of the investigation officer regarding guilt of the accused is only prima facie. And therefore, we can move forward and investigate”
He was countering the argument of senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioner, that if the ED has material to believe the accused person is in possession of tainted money why does it need to make arrest or thereafter take custody for interrogation.
The SG noted that only because the Supreme Court, under certain context, held that ED officials are not police officers, it cannot be said the Prevention Money Laundering Act, PMLA, is regulatory in nature. Even if the ED officials are not police officers, it cannot take away the right to hold investigation, he said, adding in cases involving bank fraud, the agency has recovered Rs 19,000 crore.
Responding to a question posed by Justice Karthikeyan as to why the agency had failed to take Senthil Balaji into custody for interrogation even after such custody was granted by the principal sessions court, Tushar Mehta said how will we interrogate him? If something happens to him, who will be held responsible? Meanwhile, the principal sessions court extended Balaji’s judicial custody to July 26.