Madras High Court closes habeas corpus petition. 

The Madras HC on Tuesday closed the habeas corpus petition filed by arrested Tamil Nadu minister V Senthil Balaji’s wife, since the matter is pending before the Supreme Court.

A division bench comprising justices J Nisha Banu and D Bharatha Chakravarthy closed the petition after hearing the submissions of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Enforcement Directorate and senior counsel NR Elango, who represented Balaji.

The HCP was listed before the division bench to decide from which date the ED can take custody of Balaji. The agency had earlier arrested him in a cash-for-jobs scam which took place when he was the Transport Minister in the previous AIADMK regime.

When the case was taken up for hearing through video-conferencing today, Justice Nisha Banu said since there was a split verdict in the case earlier, the matter was referred to a third judge who concurred with the conclusion of Justice Bharatha Chakravarthy.

“I stand by my judgment dated July 4, 2023. I have nothing to say further in this matter,” she said.
Mehta said the matter was referred to this division bench only to decide the date from which the ED’s custody would begin. Reiterating her stand that she has nothing to say further, Justice Nisha Banu said that in her order, she had said that the detenu should be set at liberty.

Since the Supreme Court is seized of the matter, we will close the case, she said.

Elango told the court that the petitioner has challenged the orders and that the Special Leave Petition (SLP) is pending before the Supreme Court. The ED has also challenged a portion of the judgment. Both SLPs are coming up for hearing on Wednesday. As the orders have been challenged by both parties, this court can wait till the Supreme Court gives its orders, he argued.

However, Justice Nisha Banu said, “Now we have nothing to say since the Supreme Court is seized of the matter.” When the judge asked the opinion of Justice Bharatha Chakravarthy, the latter said, “Yes, we will close the matter.” Subsequently, the division bench closed the HCP.

The third judge, Justice CV Karthikeyan, who concurred with the judgement of Justice Bharatha Chakravarthy, had earlier directed the Registry to place before the division bench the date from which the ED can take custody of Senthil Balaji.

On July 4, while pronouncing the verdict on the HCP, Justice Nisha Banu allowed the plea filed by Megala, the wife of 47-year-old Balaji, whereas Justice Bharatha Chakravarthy dismissed it.

Holding that the HCP is maintainable, Justice Nisha Banu had then directed the police to set Balaji, who has been a minister without portfolio since, at liberty forthwith.

Disagreeing with the judgment of Justice Nisha Banu, Justice Bharatha Chakravarthy in his order framed four questions and answered them while holding that the HCP is not maintainable.

Justice Bharatha Chakravarthy had dismissed the HCP, stating that the ED has the power to take custody of the accused and that the period of treatment undergone by Balaji in a private hospital can be excluded from the period of custody.

Therefore, the matter was referred to a third judge. Justice Karthikeyan had on July 14 upheld the arrest of Balaji and his subsequent remand in judicial custody. However, he referred to the same division bench to decide the date from which the ED can take custody of the accused. Hence, the matter was listed before the division bench on Tuesday.

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