Madras HC dismisses second bail plea of former TN Minister Senthil Balaji

Dismissing his bail petition, Justice N Anand Venkatesh directed the Principal Sessions and Special Court for PMLA Cases to complete the trial in three months.
Former TN minister V Senthil Balaji
Former TN minister V Senthil Balaji (File photo | P Jawahar, EPS)

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has once again denied bail to former Tamil Nadu minister V Senthil Balaji in the money laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

Dismissing his bail petition, Justice N Anand Venkatesh directed the Principal Sessions and Special Court for PMLA Cases to complete the trial in three months.

“This court does not find any merits in the bail petition. Accordingly, the petition is dismissed,” he said in the order pronounced on Wednesday.

He directed the Principal Sessions Court to hold trial on a day-to-day basis and dispose of the case in three months.

“The petitioner has suffered incarceration for more than eight months. So, it is appropriate to issue a direction to the Principal Sessions Court to dispose of the case within a time frame.

Accordingly, it is directed to dispose of the case within three months and the trial be conducted on a day-to-day basis,” Justice Anand Venkatesh ordered.

Senthil Balaji was arrested on June 14, 2023 by the ED on charges of receiving proceeds of crime generated through the cash of jobs scam allegedly committed during his tenure as Transport minister during 2011-15 in the Jayalalithaa Cabinet.

After arrested, he suffered severe chest pain and underwent by a bypass surgery at a private hospital before being shifted to the Central Prison at Puzhal.

His earlier round of bail petitions were dismissed by the Principal Sessions Court and the High Court and he moved the Supreme Court which directed him to approach the trial court for regular bail after finding no merits in the medical ground for enlarging him on bail.

Subsequently, he knocked the doors of the trial court unsuccessfully before filing the present bail petition in the High Court.

Ahead of the hearing in the High Court, he resigned from the post of minister without portfolio to pre-empt the ED from reiterating its argument that he may derail the probe as wielding influence in the capacity as a minister.

However, the arguments of change in circumstances could not gain the favour of the High Court which has now dismissed the bail petition.

During arguments, the senior counsels for Senthil Balaji raised several allegations against ED including tampering of electronic evidence. They also stated that the Central agency could not collect substantive material to prove the charges of money laundering.

However, ED contended that its charges were based on the evidence and materials obtained from the Central Crime Branch of Chennai city police which had registered three FIRs against him on the job scam.The Madras High Court on Wednesday dismissed the bail petition filed by former Tamil Nadu Minister V Senthil Balaji, who was arrested by the ED last year in connection with a money laundering case.

This was the second time in four months, that the DMK leader's plea for the relief was rejected by the HC.

Dismissing the petition on Wednesday, Justice N Anand Venkatesh said since the petitioner (accused) was in custody for about 8 months, the Special Court, trying Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases, was directed to conduct the trial preferably on a day- to-day basis and complete it within three months.

Balaji was arrested on June 14.

2023 by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with a money laundering case linked to a cash-for-jobs scam when he was the Transport Minister during an earlier AIADMK regime.

The ED had on August 12 filed a charge-sheet, running to 3,000 pages against Balaji.

The Madras HC had on October 19 dismissed Balaji's earlier bail plea.

A local court has also dismissed thrice, his bail petitions.

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