Chennai: A third judge of the Madras High Court will decide the fate of V Senthilbalaji, the Tamil Nadu Minister, arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in an alleged money laundering case, after a Division Bench delivered a split verdict on Tuesday on his release. The Minister, in judicial custody, is recuperating in a hospital after a heart bypass surgery.
Delivering the verdict on a habeas corpus petition filed by Senthilbalaji’s wife, one of the judges on the Division Bench, Justice J Nisha Banu held that the ED had failed to follow legal procedures before arresting him last month. Therefore, she ordered that the Minister be set at liberty forthwith.
Judge dismisses habeas corpus petition
However, the other judge, Justice Bharatha Chakravarthi dismissed the habeas corpus petition. He pointed out that such a petition would not be maintainable except in cases of absolute illegality or total non-application of mind or lack of jurisdiction or wholesale disregard to fundamental rights. “I have held that the petitioner has not made out any case for exercise of the powers under Article 226 of the Constitution to release him or to hold that the remand is illegal or in violation of any of his fundamental rights,” he said.
The judge pointed out that he and Justice Banu had a day after Senthilbalaji’s arrest, passed an interim order to shift him from a Government hospital to a private hospital. The Minister was admitted to the Government hospital soon after his arrest as he complained of chest pain. Subsequently, an angiogram showed he had four blocks in his artery.
Senthilbalaji may be shifted to prison hospital
Justice Chakravarthy, who noted that due to the Minister’s hospitalisation the ED was unable to interrogate him in custody, said Senthilbalaji could remain in the private hospital for 10 more days or till discharge, whichever was earlier. Thereafter, if required, he should be admitted to the prison hospital.
The judge held the limitation period of subjecting an arrested person to custodial interrogation within the first 15 days shall be relaxed as he was hospitalised. The ED could approach the appropriate court for seeking Senthilbalaji’s custodial interrogation when he is medically fit.
Following the split verdict, the case would be placed before the Chief Justice to decide on the third judge who would hear the petition and pass orders to break the tie.