Madras High Court to hear on July 7 all cases filed against continuation of Senthilbalaji in the Cabinet

Chief Justice S.V. Gangapurwala and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu heard arguments on two writ petitions on Monday and decided to hear them along with a third petition that was yet to be listed for admission

Updated - June 30, 2023 07:28 am IST

Published - June 26, 2023 12:23 pm IST - CHENNAI

Arrested T.N. Minister V. Senthilbalaji. File

Arrested T.N. Minister V. Senthilbalaji. File | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

The Madras High Court on Monday decided to hear on July 7 a batch of writ petitions challenging the continuation of Minister without portfolio V. Senthilbalaji in the Cabinet despite him having been arrested by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) in a money laundering case on June 14 and continuing to remain in judicial custody till date.

Chief Justice S.V. Gangapurwala and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu adjourned the hearing after finding that only two writ petitions -one by advocate M.L. Ravi of Desiya Makkal Sakthi Katchi and another by lawyer S. Ramachandran - had been listed and a third case by former AIADMK MP J. Jayavardhan had not been listed.

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The judges came to know of the non listed cases only in the afternoon session after they had heard the arguments advanced by K. Sakthivel and S. Sheik Ismail, counsel for the two writ petitioners, for quite sometime in the forenoon session. The counsel questioned the propriety of allowing an arrestee to be a Minister.

To this, the Chief Justice said: “We understand your anxiety but as a court of law we have to go only as per Constitutional and statutory provisions.‘ Then, the counsel referred to Article 164 of the Constitution and contended that a Minister could continue in office only during the pleasure of the Governor.

In the present case, the counsel contended Governor R.N. Ravi had not agreed to continuation of the arrested Minister in the Cabinet as he was facing criminal proceedings for moral turpitude and was currently under judicial custody. He cited a press communique issued by the Raj Bhavan to that effect on June 16.

While Mr. Sakthivel insisted upon quashing the Directorate of Information and Public Relations’ June 16 press release which stated that Mr. Senthilbalaji would continue be a Minister without portfolio, Mr. Ismail pressed for a writ of quo warranto asking the Minister to explain under what authority he was holding the post.

During the course of hearing, the Chief Justice wondered whether the High Court could interfere in such issues by exercising its powers under Article 226 (writ jurisdiction) of the Constitution when the Governor had only expressed his dissent and not passed any positive order dismissing or removing the Minister from the Cabinet.

“If there is an order by the Governor and the Minister was still continuing in the post, then there might be some justification for the court to interfere,” he told the counsel. He also pointed out that Article 164 states that the Governor shall appoint Ministers on the advice of the Chief Minister and does not speak about the power of dismissal.

Further, the Representation of the People Act too provides for disqualification of a Minister only if he/she gets convicted in a criminal case and sentenced to imprisonment for two or more years. The law does not provide for disqualification otherwise, the CJ said and decided to take a final call on the issue after hearing all parties on July 7.

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