Madras High Court on Tuesday delivered a split verdict on the Habeas Corpus plea filed by the wife of Tamil Nadu minister Senthil Balaji against his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate last month in connection with a money-laundering case. The plea will now be referred to a larger bench.
The split verdict was delivered by a division bench of Justices Nisha Banu and D Bharatha Chakravarthy. While Nisha Banu concluded that the habeas corpus plea filed for Balaji’s release is maintainable and therefore be allowed, Justice D Bharatha Chakravarthy said he could not agree with the opinion. According to the lawyer for petitioner NR Elango that because of the split verdict the status quo continues.
“As of now, the status quo continues because of the split verdict. One of the judges accepted our plea that ED has no power to seek Police custody…It has been held by one of the judges that it is a case of illegal arrest..,” said senior advocate and DMK Rajya Sabha MP Elango. Senthil Balaji was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with a money laundering case.
Balaji’s wife, S Megala, had filed a habeas corpus plea against the minister’s arrest before the High Court on June 14. Justice Nisha Banu was of the opinion that the ED is not entrusted with powers to seek police custody under the Prevention of Mondy Laundering Act (PMLA).
Senior Counsel NR Elango’s argument in the court was that Balaji’s arrest had come without prior notice and hence it was illegal. “The procedure adopted by Enforcement Directorate is totally illegal and unconstitutional. He was taken into custody by ED without informing him of the grounds of his arrest. We will fight this case legally,” Elango had told reporters on June 14.
The Supreme Court, earlier in June, refused to interfere with the Madras High Court order allowing Balaji to be moved to a private hospital in Chennai and entertaining a habeas corpus petition filed against his arrest.