HC restrains ED from probing money laundering charges against Senthilbalaji

It says investigation cannot proceed until disposal of petitions pending in the court to quash two job racketing cases

September 04, 2022 12:22 am | Updated 12:22 am IST - CHENNAI

The ASG contended that there could not be any impediment for the ED to proceed against the individuals, who had been named in the other two FIRs.

The ASG contended that there could not be any impediment for the ED to proceed against the individuals, who had been named in the other two FIRs. | Photo Credit: File photo

The Madras High Court has restrained the Enforcement Directorate (ED) from proceeding further against Electricity and Prohibition Minister V. Senthilbalaji, his brother R.V. Ashok Kumar and another person under money laundering charges until the disposal of petitions pending in the court to quash two job racketing cases against them.

Justices T. Raja and K. Kumaresh Babu issued the restraint order while disposing of writ petitions filed by the trio to declare as illegal the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) registered against them on July 29, 2021 on the basis of three job racketing First Information Reports (FIRs) booked by the local police in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

The charge in the three FIRs was that Mr. Balaji had received huge amounts of money, through his associates, from gullible job-seekers on the false promise of getting them jobs appointed as drivers and conductors in State transport undertakings when he was the Transport Minister in Jayalalithaa’s Cabinet between 2011 and 2015.

The judges recorded the submission of Additional Solicitor General R. Sankaranarayanan, representing the ED, that the investigating agency would not proceed against those who had been named in the 2018 FIR, since it was quashed by the High Court in on July 30, 2021 after the accused and the victims settled their disputes amicably.

The ASG, however, contended that there could not be any impediment for the ED to proceed against the individuals, who had been named in the other two FIRs. Disagreeing with him, the judges said, the investigating agency could not do so since the proceedings in those two FIRs too had been stayed by the High Court and the quash petitions were pending.

The Bench agreed with senior counsel Sriram Panchu, C. Aryama Sundaram and Siddharth Luthra, representing the three writ petitioners, that the charge of money laundering won’t stand would have no legs to stand at all if the predicate charge of job racketing in the cases booked by the local police falls to the ground.

Therefore, they ordered that the ED should not proceed with the probe into the money laundering case until the disposal of the two quash petitions pending before High Court and also a petition pending before the Supreme Court against permission granted by the High Court to the ED to peruse the records in the two job racketing cases.

The Bench passed the restraint order on the basis of Supreme Court’s recent verdict that a person could not be prosecuted under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act of 2002 on a notional basis or on an assumption of a scheduled offence and that there could be no offence of money laundering if he/she gets acquitted or discharged of the scheduled offence.

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