Tamil Nadu

HC reserves orders on Electricity Minister’s plea against ED’s money laundering investigation

The Madras High Court has reserved orders on individual writ petitions filed by Tamil Nadu Minister for Electricity, Prohibition and Excise V. Senthilbalaji and two others urging the court to quash the summons issued to them by the Enforcement Directorate on April 29 and declare as illegal and unconstitutional the investigation initiated against them for their alleged involvement in money laundering.

Justices T. Raja and K. Kumaresh Babu deferred their verdict after hearing arguments advanced by senior counsel C. Aryama Sundaram, Siddharth Luthra and Sriram Panchu for the writ petitioners and Additional Solicitor-General R. Sankaranarayanan for the Enforcement Directorate. Apart from the Minister, the co-accused B. Shanmugam and R.V. Ashok Kumar had approached the court with a similar prayer.

When Mr. Shanmugam’s writ petition was listed for admission during the summer vacation on May 6, a different Division Bench had granted an interim injunction, restraining the Enforcement Directorate from proceeding with the investigation for four weeks after Mr. Panchu pointed out that his client was not being served copies of certain documents relied upon by the investigating agency. Subsequently, the interim orders were extended periodically.

The Enforcement Directorate had registered the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) against the petitioners on July 29, 2021, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, on the basis of three First Information Reports (FIRs) that the Central Crime Branch in Chennai had booked against the Minister a few years ago on the charge of accepting bribes to appoint drivers and conductors when he was the Transport Minister in the AIADMK government.

After the registration of the ECIR, the investigating agency was finding it difficult to obtain copies of certain documents related to the criminal cases against the Minister from the State police. Therefore, its Deputy Director Karthik Dasari approached the special court for legislators, seeking copies of those documents. When his plea was rejected, he filed a couple of petitions in the High Court against the special court’s refusal to share those materials.

A Division Bench of Justices P.N. Prakash and A.A. Nakkiran set aside the special court’s order on March 30 this year. Immediately, one of the accused, M. Karthikeyan, filed an appeal against the High Court’s order and obtained an interim stay from the Supreme Court on April 19. Yet, the Enforcement Directorate issued summons to the accused and hence the three had filed the present writ petitions questioning the investigation when the Supreme Court’s interim order was in operation.

It was also brought to the notice of the Division Bench, led by Justice Raja, that of the three cases booked by the Central Crime Branch, one had been quashed by the High Court.

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Printable version | Aug 17, 2022 1:53:06 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/hc-reserves-orders-on-electricity-ministers-plea-against-eds-money-laundering-investigation/article65775329.ece