T.N. Minister Senthilbalaji arrest | Madras High Court completes hearing litigants opposed to his continuation in State Cabinet

The Court has now decided to hear the response of Advocate-General R. Shunmugasundaram sometime next week, before delivering its verdict

Updated - July 22, 2023 02:41 am IST

Published - July 21, 2023 05:06 pm IST - CHENNAI

Arrested T.N. Minister V. Senthilbalaji

Arrested T.N. Minister V. Senthilbalaji | Photo Credit: JOTHI RAMALINGAM B

The Madras High Court on Friday completed hearing arguments on behalf of a group of petitioners who had challenged the continuation of V. Senthilbalaji in the Tamil Nadu Cabinet after his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case on June 14, 2023 and his remaining in judicial custody since then.

Chief Justice S.V. Gangapurwala and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu directed the High Court Registry to list the batch of cases next week, for hearing Advocate-General R. Shunmugasundaram in response to the arguments advanced by senior counsel V. Raghavachari and advocates K. Sakthivel and S. Sheik Ismail for three different petitioners.

Arguing on behalf of former AIADMK MP J. Jayavardhan, Mr. Raghavachari said the continuation of an arrested person in the Cabinet must be examined under the larger scheme of Constitutional law, though there was no specific legal provision prohibiting such a person from continuing as a Minister.

The senior counsel said, the Chief Minister had rightly taken away all portfolios from the arrested Minister but erred in letting him continue in the Cabinet without a portfolio. He wondered how a person could continue to receive a salary from the public exchequer without discharging any duties or holding any responsibilities because of non-allocation of a portfolio.

He argued the very concept of a Minister without portfolio was against the Constitutional scheme. Allowing a person incarcerated in jail to be a Minister might lead to a situation where he could end up calling for government files to the prison and some bureaucrat may actually end up obliging to such a request just because he was a Minister, he feared.

Mr. Sakthivel, representing M.L. Ravi of the Desiya Makkal Sakthi Katchi, said, Governor R.N. Ravi had, on June 29, 2023, issued an order dismissing the arrested Minister from the Council of Ministers. The order was passed after the filing of the present writ petitions. However, within hours, the Governor placed his order in abeyance.

The counsel contended that the Governor becomes functus officio after passing the dismissal order and he cannot not then withhold his order just because the Union Home Minister had advised him to first obtain the opinion of the Attorney General on the issue.

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