Tamil Nadu Governor R. N. Ravi had, based on the advice of Union Home Minister Amit Shah on June 29 night, hurriedly backtracked on his decision to “dismiss” arrested Minister V. Senthilbalaji.
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“I have been advised by the Honorable Union Minister of Home Affairs that it would be prudent to seek the opinion of the Attorney General also. Accordingly, I am approaching the Attorney General for his opinion. Meanwhile, the order of dismissal of minister Thiru V. Senthilbalaji may be kept in abeyance until further communication from me,” Mr. Ravi is learnt to have officially informed Chief Minister M. K. Stalin.
Sources said, earlier on Thursday evening, the Governor had written a five-page letter to Mr. Stalin in which he accused the latter of an “unhealthy bias” in insisting on retaining Mr. Senthilbalaji in the Cabinet “against my advice”. Mr. Ravi had invoked the powers conferred on him under Articles 154, 163 and 164 of the Constitution of India to “dismiss” Mr. Senthilbalaji from the Council of Ministers with “immediate effect”.
Sources said the Chief Minister will be responding officially to the charges raised by the Governor.
According to sources, in his first letter dismissing Mr. Senthilbalaji, the Governor had charged that instead of taking his advice through a letter dated May 31 to remove the Minister from the Cabinet, Mr. Stalin had responded with an “inflammatory” letter and used “intemperate language”. The Chief Minister had accused the Governor of “overstepping” his Constitutional limits. “Your response disappointed me — to say the least,” Mr. Ravi told Mr. Stalin.
The Governor had cited the Supreme Court’s “scathing observations” indicating serious misconducts by the minister and sought his removal.
Mr Ravi, pointed out that on June 15, Mr. Stalin had recommended reallocation of Mr. Senthilbalaji’s portfolios to other ministers citing his hospitalisation but did not mention that he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate the previous day. Hence he had sought for “full facts”.
“However, you refused to give the details asked for” and wrote back “using unsavoury language” and “insisting on me to act without delay” on the June 15 letter.
Mr. Ravi said while reallocating portfolios, he had “disagreed” to Mr. Senthilbalaji continuing as a minister in the interest of fair investigation. However, to his “dismay”, Mr Stalin issued a government notification retaining him as a Minister without portfolio.
Even after repeated observations of the Supreme Court “indicative of continuing disruptive influence” of Mr. Senthilbalaji to the course of fair investigation and justice, the Chief Minister retained him as Minister. This “emboldened him to intimidate and obstruct even the Central Investigating Agency — the Income Tax,” the Governor said. The IT Department had conducted searches at places of acquaintances of the minister.
Mr. Ravi recalled Mr Senthilbalaji’s supporters had “prevented the raid from being conducted, physically assaulted and injured the Income Tax Officers and snatched valuable documents from their custody.”
“Situation worsened to an extent that the Income Tax officers had to seek protection and help of the CRPF as the local police did not adequately respond to the situation,” the Governor said.
Mr Ravi said he was conscious that under “ordinary circumstances”, a Governor acts on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. However, in the instant case, Mr Stalin’s advice or “insistence” to retain Mr Senthilbalaji “against my advice” reflected his “unhealthy bias”, the Governor said.
In an unprecedented move, Mr. Ravi, earlier on June 29 evening, unilaterally “dismissed with immediate effect” Mr. Senthilbalaji from the Council of Ministers, only to hurriedly backtrack on his decision late in the night.
Mr. Senthilbalaji was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on June 14 in an alleged money laundering case. The DMK leader, who was hospitalised after his arrest, underwent a beating heart coronary artery bypass surgery recently.