CHENNAI: The rift between the DMK government and Governor RN Ravi widened on Thursday with the latter dismissing V Senthil Balaji, currently under judicial custody, from the council of ministers. Balaji has been continuing as a minister without a portfolio. This is perhaps for the first time that a governor is taking such a drastic step without any recommendation from a Chief Minister.
A communication from the Raj Bhavan said: "Minister V Senthil Balaji is facing serious criminal proceedings in a number of cases of corruption including taking cash for jobs and money laundering. Abusing his position as a Minister, he has been influencing the investigation and obstructing the due process of law and justice. Currently, he is in judicial custody in a criminal case being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate. Some more criminal cases against him under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Penal Code are being investigated by the State Police."
Reacting to the development, Chief Minister MK Stalin told reporters, "The governor has no power to dismiss a minister from the council of ministers. We will face this legally."
The Raj Bhavan communication also said there are reasonable apprehensions that the continuation of Balaji in the Council of Ministers will adversely impact the due process of law including a fair investigation that may eventually lead to a breakdown of the Constitutional machinery in the State. Under these circumstances, the governor has dismissed Balaji from the council of ministers with immediate effect.
On June 16, the governor approved the reallocation of portfolios held by Balaji but said he has not agreed to Balaji continuing as a minister since he is facing interrogation by the Enforcement Directorate. However, within a few hours, the state government passed a G.O. reallocating the portfolios of Balaji to two other ministers and announced that Balaji will continue as a minister without a portfolio.
When contacted, senior advocate KM Vijayan told The New Indian Express, "The governor has no powers to dismiss a minister since including or dropping a minister is the prerogative of the chief minister. The governor has acted beyond the scope of the powers given to him in the Constitution."