ED strongly opposes T.N. Minister Senthilbalaji’s bail plea at Madras HC on health grounds

In a detailed counter affidavit filed before the Madras High Court, the investigating agency said the jailed T.N. Minister had no medical issues that could quality as “non normal”; it also stated that since Mr. Senthilbalaji was an extremely powerful personality, he could influence or threaten witnesses, if released on bail

October 16, 2023 01:46 pm | Updated October 17, 2023 12:09 pm IST - CHENNAI

Jailed T.N. Minister V. Senthilbalaji. File

Jailed T.N. Minister V. Senthilbalaji. File | Photo Credit: S. Siva Saravanan

The Madras High Court on Monday, October 16, 2023 reserved its orders on a bail petition filed by jailed T.N. Minister V. Senthilbalaji in a money-laundering case, in which he was arrested by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) on June 14, solely on health grounds while reserving his right to seek bail on merits when the circumstances warrant so.

Justice G. Jayachandran deferred his verdict after hearing arguments advanced by Senior Counsel N.R. Elango for the Minister and Additional Solicitor General AR.L. Sundaresan for the ED and after taking on file an elaborate counter affidavit filed by investigating officer Karthik Dasari recording his strong objection to the plea for grant of bail.

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The counter affidavit, filed through Special Public Prosecutor N. Ramesh, refuted the averment of the Minister without portfolio that “he is sick”, and, therefore, entitled for bail solely on medical grounds. It claimed that he does not suffer from any sort of medical issues that could qualify as “non-normal.”

The ED also denied his claim of having extended his fullest cooperation during his custodial interrogation.

It described as “completely and factually incorrect” the Minister’s claim that the money laundering case was booked on the basis of a “false case” of job racketeering registered against him by the State police.

Recalling that the Minister was arrested on June 14, the officer said the Minister had stayed in the hospital until July 17. Thereafter, the ED had subjected him to custodial interrogation from August 7 to 12 on the basis of orders passed by the Supreme Court and, during the interrogation, he was hale and healthy.

Thereafter, once again from August 12 till date, he was at the prison hospital “with all the facilities”, and hence, his contention of having suffered incarceration for 117 days was an “unnecessary overemphasis,” the officer said and refuted the Minister’s claim that his recovery from heart surgery was very slow. The officer accused the Minister of having been completely non-cooperative right from the nascent stage of the investigation. Even during the search operation on June 14, he was evasive and behaved in a threatening manner towards the officers, he said.

“The Directorate strongly contends that the petitioner, with an intention to get bail, is attempting to create a smokescreen of some sort of illness again using his past heart surgery, which happened more than three and a half months ago. And now, when he is very stable, hale, and healthy, has come up with a narrative of illness and continued medication simply as a ruse to get bail,” the counter affidavit read. It also stated that despite being proficient in English, the Minister intentionally demanded translation of English documents into Tamil, just because the ED officials were not very fluent in Tamil.

“This establishes his intention to thwart the smooth flow of the investigation,” the officer added.

Risks of tampering

Further, “it is humbly submitted that this is a case where the accused is an extremely powerful and influential personality. In spite of having been arrested under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and being in judicial custody, still the petitioner continues as a Minister....It is almost certain that he will influence or even attempt to threaten the witnesses if released on bail,” Mr. Dasari said.

Since the Minister’s brother Ashok Kumar, a co-accused person in the case, has been absconding for a long time, the ED said the prosecution might suffer if the Minister was let out on bail.

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