Madras High Court allows arrested T.N. Minister Senthilbalaji to be shifted to private hospital

Justices J. Nisha Banu and D. Bharatha Chakravarthy made it clear that he would continue to be in judicial custody.

Updated - June 16, 2023 05:21 pm IST

Published - June 15, 2023 05:30 pm IST - CHENNAI

An ambulance carrying Tamil Nadu Minister for Electricity, Prohibition and Excise V. Senthilbalaji leaves the Government Multi Super Speciality Hospital in Omandurar Estate, Chennai after the Madras High Court allows his shifting to a private hospital on June 15, 2023.

An ambulance carrying Tamil Nadu Minister for Electricity, Prohibition and Excise V. Senthilbalaji leaves the Government Multi Super Speciality Hospital in Omandurar Estate, Chennai after the Madras High Court allows his shifting to a private hospital on June 15, 2023. | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

In a breather for Minister V. Senthilbalaji, 47, arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday and admitted to a government hospital in Chennai after he complained of chest pain, the Madras High Court on Thursday, June 15, 2023 ordered him to be shifted to a private hospital of his choice.

Later, he was taken from the Tamil Nadu Government Multi Super Speciality Hospital to Kauvery Hospital at Alwarpet.

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But Justices J. Nisha Banu and D. Bharatha Chakravarthy made it clear that he would continue to be in judicial custody. They also said a panel of doctors, to be constituted by the ED, could visit the private hospital and examine the Minister, peruse the medical records and ascertain the treatment being given to him over there.

“In matters dealing with the life of an individual, we are of the view that the prayer on behalf of the detenu to undergo treatment at a hospital of his choice at own cost can be acceded to even while he continues to be in judicial custody,” the Division Bench wrote while finding justification in allowing him to take treatment at the private hospital.

The interim orders were passed on a habeas corpus petition filed by the Minister’s wife, Megala, accusing ED officials of not having followed due procedures, such as intimating the grounds of arrest, under the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.). She wanted the arrest itself to be declared illegal for the ED’s failure to comply with the legal procedures.

Clarifying that a decision on the legality or otherwise of the detention could be decided only after the ED filed a counter-affidavit by June 22, the judges decided to first consider the interim plea made by senior counsel N.R. Elango for shifting the Minister from the Tamil Nadu Government Multi Super Speciality Hospital at Omandurar Government Estate to Kauvery Hospital in Chennai.

From arrest to hospitalisation

The Division Bench noted that the Minister was arrested in the early hours at 1:39 am on Wednesday, June 14, 2023 and taken straight to the government hospital around 2 a.m. after he complained of chest pain. He was admitted as an in-patient, and an angiogram performed was on him around 10.40 a.m. revealed three blocks in his arteries, requiring a bypass surgery at the earliest.

Though Additional Solicitor-General AR.L. Sundaresan, representing the ED, insisted on constituting a team of doctors from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) for a fair assessment of the Minister’s health before shifting him to the private hospital, the judges said they found no reason to doubt the medical bulletin issued by the government hospital.

Further, stating that the ED had already brought doctors from the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) hospital to ascertain the Minister’s condition, the judges acceded to the petitioner’s request for shifting her husband to Kauvery Hospital where he had a regular physician and, she felt, better treatment could be provided to him.

The ED had arrested the Minister in connection with an Enforcement Case Information Register filed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in 2021. The ECIR was registered on the basis of three First Information Reports booked against him by the local police in 2018 for his alleged involvement in a job racket when he was the Transport Minister in Jayalalithaa’s Cabinet in 2015.

He joined the DMK in December 2018 and assumed office as the Electricity Minister after the party came to power in May 2021.

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