Supreme Court refuses medical bail to TN minister Senthil Balaji | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Supreme Court refuses medical bail to TN minister Senthil Balaji

Nov 28, 2023 11:26 AM IST

The bench declined to interfere with the Madras HC order even as it perused the medical reports of Balaji with regard to post-operative ailments pursuant to a bypass surgery conducted in June

The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to grant bail to Tamil Nadu minister V Senthil Balaji, who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in June in an alleged money laundering case, on medical grounds as it remarked that the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) leader’s sickness does not appear to be “serious or life-threatening”.

The ED had arrested Balaji on June 14 under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA). (ANI file photo)
The ED had arrested Balaji on June 14 under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA). (ANI file photo)

A bench of justices Bela M Trivedi and Satish Chandra Sharma declined to interfere with the Madras high court’s order last month even as it perused the latest medical reports of Balaji with regard to post-operative ailments pursuant to a bypass surgery conducted in June this year.

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“It (medical conditions) does not appear to be serious or life-threatening...I also looked up Google and other things. Your conditions do not appear to be very serious,” said the bench.

Representing Balaji, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi stressed the fact that his client has had bypass surgery, and the reports will show that he may suffer a brain stroke. Rohatgi complained that the DMK minister has complications in his brain and heart valves which needed day-to-day monitoring at private facilities.

Countering Balaji’s plea, solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the ED, argued that all these problems alleged by the accused were old ailments on which the top court had decided in the past and that going by the petitioner’s reports, at least 70% of the inmates will be entitled to be let out on bail.

Also Read:Setback for Senthil Balaji of DMK in Madras HC in money laundering case

On its part, the bench told Rohatgi that it finds no grounds to differ with the view taken by the high court, asking him to rather move for a regular bail. The court further declined to interfere with the high court’s observations regarding a strong possibility that witnesses may be influenced and trial could be derailed if the minister, whose co-accused brother is still at large, is released on bail.

“There are views and views. And this is obviously for the purpose of denying the bail,” it told Rohatgi, prompting the senior counsel to request for withdrawing the bail plea with the liberty to approach the trial court for applying for bail afresh.

The bench allowed Rohatgi’s request while recording that it is not inclined to entertain Balaji’s medical bail plea.

In its October order, the high court too had noted that Balaji’s health report does not appear to be a medical condition which could be taken care only if he was released on bail. The HC judge also considered his past conduct, his present position as a minister without portfolio and the abscondence of his brother Ashok Kumar, coupled with the attack on the Income Tax officials, to draw a conclusion that his release on bail can result in witnesses being influenced.

The ED had arrested Balaji on June 14 under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) in a case alleging cash-for-jobs dating back to 2014 when he was transport minister under the AIADMK government. Since his arrest he has been hospitalised for chest pain and subsequently underwent a heart surgery at a private hospital. He was discharged on July 17 and has since been jailed in connection with the ED case.

On October 10, he complained of chest discomfort, headache and numbness in his left leg and was brought to Chennai’s government-run Stanley hospital and later taken to the prison hospital the same day. Balaji served as electricity, excise and prohibition minister in the state and his portfolio was recently re-allocated by chief minister MK Stalin on account of his ill health.

The agency had summoned his brother Kumar four times since June and said in August that he ‘never joined the investigation and has refused to appear before ED in response to the summonses citing frivolous inconsequential excuses’. His wife Nirmala and mother-in-law P Lakshmi have also ‘not complied’ with four individual summonses, ED said. It further added that “evidence indicates that all three individuals have played pivotal roles in layering and integrating the proceeds of crimes”.

The top court had on August 8 allowed the ED to have custody of the minister while rejecting Balaji’s petition that the period of police custody was no longer available to the federal agency as during the immediate period since his arrest, he got admitted in the hospital and the ED failed to avail the option of interrogating him at the hospital.

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