The Directorate of Enforcement (ED) could take arrested Tamil Nadu Minister V Senthilbalaji into custody for interrogation, a third judge of the Madras High Court ruled on Thursday while dismissing a habeas corpus petition filed by his wife Megala. Justice C V Karthikeyan was appointed as a third judge after a Division Bench of Justices Nisha Bhanu and Bharatha Chakravarthy gave a split verdict in the case earlier.
The third judge held the Minister could be taken into custody even after the expiration of 15 days from his arrest on June 14.
Senthilbalaji underwent bypass surgery
Senthilbalaji was hospitalised within hours of his arrest in an alleged money laundering case after he complained of chest pain. Later he underwent a bypass surgery.
Justice Karthikeyan directed the High Court Registry to list the case before the same Division Bench, with the Chief Justice’s consent, for a formal closure based on the majority view. He agreed with Justice Chakravarthy on the maintainability of the habeas corpus petition, the power of the ED to subject the accused to custodial interrogation, and the right to interrogate beyond 15 days of arrest.
Justice Karthikeyan said now it would be up to the same Division Bench to decide the specific date from which such custody and interrogation could commence.
V Senthilbalaji unaware of reasons behind his arrest
The judge said the minister’s arrest had followed a day of search and seizure proceedings, making it unlikely that he was unaware of the reasons behind his arrest.
On whether the ED could arrest someone, the judge held the view that officers of the agency are not considered police officers solely because statements given to them in a criminal case are inadmissible as evidence before a trial court. However, the ED to effectively investigate money laundering offences had to subject the accused to custodial interrogation to uncover crucial facts related to the alleged crime.