Tamil Nadu Electricity Minister V. Senthilbalaji who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case in the wee hours on June 14, 2023, following an 18-hour questioning at the Minister’s home in Chennai, was remanded in judicial custody till June 28.
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A bail petition moved by the Minister was posted for hearing on Thursday, June 15.
The ED, on Tuesday, June 13, searched Mr. Senthilbalaji’s official chamber in the State Secretariat, his bungalow in Chennai and other places linked to him in Karur and Coimbatore in connection with a money laundering case.
It is alleged that as part of a job racket that allegedly took place when Mr. Senthilbalaji (who was then a member of the AIADMK) served as Transport Minister during 2011-15 in Jayalalithaa’s Cabinet, bribe was sought for jobs in the Metropolitan Transport Corporation.
After his arrest following 18 hours of investigation, dramatic scenes unfolded throughout Wednesday, June 14.
Mr. Senthilbalaji was taken in a car at 2 a.m. on June 14 and admitted to Tamil Nadu Government Multi Super Specialty Hospital at Omandurar Estate in Chennai for a medical checkup, after he complained of chest pain.
A medical bulletin from the hospital stated that Mr. Senthilbalaji, 47, underwent a coronary angiogram at 10.40 a.m.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK president M.K. Stalin met Mr. Senthilbalaji at the hospital around 10.30 a.m.
The angiogram revealed triple vessel disease, for which CABG-Bypass surgery was advised at the earliest.
The ED officials had harassed Mr. Senthilbalaji to the extent that he developed chest pain, the CM alleged in a statement. “The DMK will legally face the case; we are not afraid of the intimidation tactics of the BJP. People are watching these acts of oppression, and they will teach them a befitting lesson in 2024,” he said.
Prison officials visited the hospital and took over the security of the Minister, who is now in judicial custody.
A number of State Ministers including Minister for Youth Welfare and Sports Development Udhayanidhi Stalin, Health Minister Ma. Subramanian, Finance Minister Thangam Thennarasu, PWD Minister E.V. Velu, School Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi, Higher Education Minister K. Ponmudy, Law Minister S. Regupathy visited the hospital to express solidarity. Parties belonging to the DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance (SPA) announced that they would stage a joint agitation in Coimbatore on Friday, June 16.
‘Not following procedure’
Principal District and Sessions Judge S. Alli visited Mr. Senthilbalaji at the hospital and ordered his remand to judicial custody.
Earlier, the Madras High Court agreed to urgently hear a habeas corpus petition filed by the Minister’s wife, accusing the ED of not following due procedures for the arrest.
However, Justice M. Sundar, the senior judge in the Division Bench, said Justice R. Sakthivel wanted to recuse himself from the case and therefore it might not be possible for the Bench to hear the case even if it gets numbered on Wednesday, June 14.
The case would now be listed for hearing before a Division Bench of Justices J. Nisha Banu and D. Bharatha Chakravarthy.
Only three weeks ago, Income Tax officials had conducted weeklong searches on the premises of Mr. Senthilbalaji’s brother, V. Ashok Kumar, and acquaintances.
On May 16, the Supreme Court had paved the way for the Crime Branch to continue an investigation into Mr. Senthilbalaji, in a case where he is accused of taking bribes in exchange for jobs in the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC).
Congress leader Kharge condemns
Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge condemning the late-night arrest said in a statement, “This is nothing but political harassment and vendetta by the Modi govt. against those opposed to it. None of us in the Opposition will be intimidated by such brazen moves.”