T.N. Minister Senthilbalaji’s arrest | Third judge frames three questions to be answered by Minister after hearing arguments on July 11 & 12

Justice C.V. Karthikeyan decides to hear Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal for the habeas corpus petitioner on July 11 and Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta for the Directorate of Enforcement on July 12

Updated - July 07, 2023 11:57 pm IST

Published - July 07, 2023 07:31 pm IST - CHENNAI

Justice C.V. Karthikeyan will answer the questions after hearing arguments on July 11 and 12.

Justice C.V. Karthikeyan will answer the questions after hearing arguments on July 11 and 12.

Justice C.V. Karthikeyan, the third judge named by Madras High Court Chief Justice S.V. Gangapurwala to hear a habeas corpus petition related to arrested Minister V. Senthilbalaji following a split verdict delivered by two judges of a Division Bench, on Friday framed three crucial questions to be answered by him after hearing arguments on July 11 and 12.

The three questions were: Whether the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) is authorised to subject an accused person in a money-laundering case to custodial interrogation? Whether the habeas corpus petition filed by the Minister’s wife Megala is maintainable? Whether the ED can subject the Minister to custodial interrogation even after expiry of 15 days from arrest?

The questions were framed after Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, representing the ED, and senior counsel N.R. Elango, appearing on behalf of the habeas corpus petitioner, submitted before the court separate tabulations listing the points on which Justices J. Nisha Banu and D. Bharatha Chakravarthy of the Division Bench had differed on July 4.

Though Justice Karthikeyan was keen on counsel commencing arguments before him on Saturday itself and the Solicitor-General, too, expressed his eagerness to argue the matter during the weekend, Mr. Elango sought an adjournment till July 11 for accommodating senior counsel Kapil Sibal on behalf of the petitioner.

The Solicitor-General expressed difficulty in making his submissions on Tuesday since cases against abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution had been listed before the Supreme Court that day. Finally, the judge decided to hear Mr. Sibal on July 11 and Mr. Mehta on July 12 before reserving his verdict.

During arguments on framing of questions, Mr. Mehta contended that the third judge need not answer whether the ED should have followed the procedure of issuing a notice of inquiry under Section 41A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, before arresting the Minister, because there was no difference of opinion between the two judges on this aspect.

The Solicitor-General said Justice Banu had not given any opinion on this issue; therefore, it could not be considered a point of difference of opinion between the two judges on the Bench. However, Mr. Elango insisted that the petitioner be allowed to argue on this point since it was connected to the maintainability and entertainability of the habeas corpus plea.

Agreeing with him, Justice Karthikeyan said both sides could argue on the legality of the arrest on June 14 as well as the judicial remand order passed by a sessions judge on the same day since they were connected to the questions framed by the court. He, however, insisted that the arguments before him should not be expanded beyond what was argued before the Bench.

Subsequently, Mr. Mehta told the judge that the Minister’s judicial custody was coming to an end on July 12 when the sessions court was expected to extend it further by 15 days. He said the Minister should not end up arguing before the sessions court that his custody could not be extended just because one judge of the Division Bench had ordered that he be set at liberty.

Immediately, Mr. Elango replied, “I would be the last person to make such a submission before the sessions court when the matter is pending before this court.” After hearing them, Justice C.V. Karthikeyan left it to the wisdom of the sessions judge to proceed with the issue of extension of remand.

Before the hearing for the day concluded, Mr. Mehta said the Minister had been recuperating at hospital, despite being in judicial custody, since his arrest on June 14. “I wish the detenu is out of hospital by July 12. I wish him good health, My Lord,” the SG said.

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