Supreme Court says Madras High Court was right to ask Tamil Nadu CM to decide on Senthilbalaji’s continuation as Minister

A Bench led by A.S. Oka also agrees with HC’s finding that Governor cannot unilaterally dismiss government Minister

January 05, 2024 03:44 pm | Updated 08:51 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Tamil Nadu Minister Senthilbalaji. File

Tamil Nadu Minister Senthilbalaji. File | Photo Credit: R. Ragu

The Supreme Court on January 5 said the Madras High Court did right to restrain itself and pass the ball to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin to take a call about the continuance of V. Senthilbalaji as a Minister without portfolio.

Mr. Senthilbalaji is involved in a money laundering case linked to the cash-for-job scam.

“The order is correct… We concur with the decision taken by the High Court. No interference is called for. The petition is dismissed,” Justice A.S. Oka, leading the Bench, addressed advocate M.L. Ravi, the petitioner-in-person.

Also Read | On the arrest of Tamil Nadu Minister V. Senthilbalaji and its aftermath

The High Court had asked the Chief Minister to take the decision on Mr. Senthilbalaji’s prospects in the government even as it pointedly observed that “a Minister without portfolio is a constitutional travesty… Political compulsion cannot outweigh the public morality, requirements of good/clean governance and constitutional morality”.

Justice Oka also agreed with the High Court’s finding that the Governor did not have the discretionary power to unilaterally dismiss a government Minister.

“If the Governor chooses to ‘withdraw his pleasure’ in respect of a Minister, he must exercise his discretion with the knowledge of the Chief Minister and not unilaterally. In the present case, the Chief Minister had never consented for the exercise of discretion by the Governor,” the Madras High Court had noted in its September 5 order.

Mr. Ravi had challenged the Governor’s volte face on June 29, 2023 when the latter had first issued an order dismissing Mr. Senthilbalaji as Minister of Electricity and Excise with “immediate effect”, only to issue a second order just hours later keeping the first one in abeyance.

Mr. Ravi said the Governor’s decision to put on hold the dismissal of the Minister was “arbitrary and ultra vires the Constitution”.

“He cannot take back his order as he is functus officio… and the High Court, instead of directing his removal, had merely advised the Chief Minister to take a decision about the continuance of Mr. Senthilbalaji as a Minister without portfolio,” the petitioner argued.

The train of events unrolled on June 16 last year when the Chief Minister wrote to the Governor to reallocate Mr. Senthilbalaji’s portfolios to Finance Minister Thangam Thennarasu and to retain the former as a Minister without portfolio. The same day saw the Governor reallocate the portfolios to Mr. Thennarasu but disagreed with the continuation of Mr. Senthilbalaji as Minister as he was facing “criminal proceedings for moral turpitude”.

The day ended with the State government releasing a Press statement that Mr. Senthilbalaji’s portfolios were reallocated and he would continue as Minister without portfolio. This had led to the Governor’s order and counter-order about the dismissal of Mr. Senthilbalaji on June 29.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.