TN Minister arrest: SC to wait for Madras HC's verdict on Senthil Balaji case, adjourns ED's plea

While granting ED eight days custody, the local court had clarified that he shall be interrogated taking into consideration his ailments and treatment.
(File Photo | R Satish Babu)
(File Photo | R Satish Babu)

NEW DELHI: Enforcement Directorate on Wednesday suffered a setback as the Supreme Court refused to interfere with the Madras HCs order of entertaining the habeas corpus petition filed by the wife of Tamil Nadu Minister Senthil Balaji and transferring him to a private hospital in Chennai. 

A vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and MM Sundresh took note of the fact that the Madras HC is yet to decide on the maintainability of the habeas corpus plea and the exclusion of the period of treatment undergone by the minister from the period of custodial interrogation and accordingly posted the plea for July 4, 2023. 

“We as of now have absolutely no reason to doubt the ability of HC of appreciating the correct position of law. It is in the interest of the investigating agency for the HC to examine the question of the maintainability of the plea. It is better if the HC gives the opinion. We are as of now fully confident and that it is aware of the law. In any case, if an inferior court fails to appreciate the law, we are sitting here,” Justice Surya Kant the presiding judge of the bench said.

Refusing to pass any order of deeming Balaji to not be in any custody either judicial or ED while he is hospitalized for ensuring that the 15-day period as laid down in SCs ruling does not come in the way of effective investigation and interrogation, the bench said, “Let us not pass any order merely on apprehension…. HCs are robust institutions & they are constitutional courts…. Today we won’t say anything as it will amount that we don’t trust the institutions.” 

Madras HC's June 15 order was passed by a bench of Justices Nisha Banu and D Bharatha Chakravarthy while dealing with a plea filed by his wife who had sought for declaring Balaji’s arrest as “illegal.”

While allowing his transfer the bench had allowed ED to constitute its own panel of doctors to examine the minister and visit him in the private hospital to take stock of his health condition. The court had clarified that the duration of Balaji’s hospital stay would be excluded while calculating the ED’s plea for custodial interrogation. While granting ED eight days custody, the local court had clarified that he shall be interrogated taking into consideration his ailments and treatment given to him in the hospital after obtaining the necessary options from the team of doctors. 

Laying emphasis on the fact that HCs order of entertaining a habeas corpus plea and passing an interim order would set a wrong precedent, SG Tushar Mehta for the probe agency said that HCs order had rendered their remedies. 

On the other hand, Senior Advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul for the minister said, “This whole bogey that I got myself admitted is wrong cause they took me. The operation has been done with regard to four blockages. HC keeps both issues open and posts the matter for tomorrow.” 

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