Armed with Supreme Court order, ED takes T.N. Minister Senthilbalaji into custody for interrogation

ED has been granted five-day custody of the Minister by a Chennai court

Updated - August 08, 2023 04:56 pm IST

Published - August 08, 2023 01:47 am IST - NEW DELHI/CHENNAI

Tamil Nadu Minister V. Senthilbalaji being brought to the ED office in Chennai on August 7, 2023

Tamil Nadu Minister V. Senthilbalaji being brought to the ED office in Chennai on August 7, 2023 | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

The Directorate of Enforcement (ED) on Monday (August 7, 2023) night took V. Senthilbalaji, jailed Tamil Nadu Minister without portfolio, in its custody in an alleged money laundering case after the Supreme Court, earlier in the day, allowed the agency to interrogate him for five days

Mr. Senthilbalaji, who was arrested on June 14, could not be interrogated earlier as he was admitted to hospital following complaints of chest pain. Subsequently, he underwent a heart bypass surgery at a private hospital in Chennai and upon being discharged, was lodged at the Puzhal Central Prison, Chennai.

Armed with the apex court order, the ED through its counsel N. Ramesh, moved an urgent application before the Principal Sessions Court for custodial interrogation. When the matter was taken up by Principal Sessions Judge S. Alli, Mr. Senthilbalaji was produced through video conferencing facility from the Central Prison. The judge said the apex court has allowed the ED to conduct custodial interrogation until August 12 and based on the order, she said Mr. Senthilbalaji can be taken for custodial interrogation from the judicial custody.

At the time of filing this report, the sleuths of the agency were taking Mr. Senthilbalaji by road from Puzhal to its office in Nungambakkam.

A Supreme Court Bench of Justices A.S. Bopanna and M.M. Sundresh had earlier in the day dismissed the appeals of the Minister and his wife, Megala, challenging a Madras High Court order upholding the power of the ED, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, to have police custody of him.

The apex court agreed with the High Court that a habeas corpus petition would not be maintainable after a judicial order for remand under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.

The judgment, authored by Justice Sundresh, held that Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) would also include officers of other investigating agencies, including Enforcement Directorate officers, and not just police personnel.

Mr. Senthilbalaji had argued that ED was not ‘police’ to seek custodial interrogation under Section 167(2) of the CrPC.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal and advocate Amit Anand Tiwari, for the Minister, had argued that all the ED could do was arrest the accused, produce him or her before the Magistrate, who would in turn remand him to judicial custody. Mr. Sibal had said there was no question of ED getting police custody of Mr. Senthilbalaji. He had argued that anti-money laundering law required the ED to collect the evidence, complete its enquiry and find a person prima facie guilty before finally arresting him.

“Section 167(2) will also include not only police but also other investigating agencies. The word ‘custody’ shall mean actual custody,” Justice Sundresh pronounced in court.

The Bench held that the ED’s 15-day police custody would not just expire because the Minister had to be rushed into surgery and underwent private post-operative care.

The apex court judgment came in appeals filed by Mr. Senthilbalaji and his wife against a July 14 decision of a third judge of the Madras High Court, who, following a split verdict by a Division Bench, upheld the ED’s power to seek police remand of the Minister.

Mr. Mehta had urged the court to decide the appeals expeditiously. He said that Section 167 (procedure when investigation cannot be completed in 24 hours) of the CrPC provides for a maximum police remand of 60 days for these offences.

Mr. Senthilbalaji has been facing the case booked by ED in 2021 under provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act that arose from three cases filed by Central Crime Branch of the Chennai city police. It was alleged that when he was the Minister for Transport in the AIADMK government in 2014, he and others received money from job aspirants for appointments in transport corporations.

On August 3, unexplained property documents of 60 land parcels, ₹22 lakh unaccounted cash, valuables worth ₹16.6 lakh were found and seized by ED following searches at nine places linked to Mr. Senthilbalaji.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.