After Split Verdict in Senthil Balaji Case, SC Asks Madras HC To Decide Soon

Earlier in the day, the high court delivered a split verdict on whether his arrest amounted to illegal detention.

2 min read

The Supreme Court on Tuesday, 4 July, adjourned the hearing in a set of appeals filed by the Enforcement Directorate against orders of the Madras High Court, in a habeas corpus petition filed against the arrest of Tamil Nadu minister V Senthil Balaji.

This comes after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested him on last month, after a long session of questioning regarding a money laundering case.

Earlier in the day, a two-judge bench of the high court delivered a split verdict on the question of whether the arrest of the legislator amounted to illegal detention.

The division bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justices Surya Kant and Dipankar Datta, declined the request of the central agency to decide the legal questions in the case.

Instead, they chose to wait for the outcome of the ongoing litigation in the high court, as they had done previously.

However, the Supreme Court requested the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court to refer the habeas corpus petition filed by Senthil Balaji's wife, Megala, to a larger bench for an expeditious decision.

Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta argued for the court to hear the appeals and make a final decision.

He raised questions of law, such as whether a habeas corpus petition could be filed after a judicial order of remand and whether the period spent by the accused in a hospital on medical grounds could be excluded from the custody period.

Mehta expressed concerns about tampering with evidence as long as the accused remained in the hospital, particularly in cases involving influential individuals.

However, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal representing the arrested MLA, objected to bypassing the high court. He pointed out that there was a split verdict, and the matter needed to be referred to a third judge as previously indicated by the Supreme Court. Sibal questioned the circumstances under which the case was being brought to the Supreme Court at this stage.

After considering the arguments from both sides, the bench decided to request the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court to refer the matter to a three-judge combination at the earliest. They emphasised that the pendency of the special leave petition would not impact the proceedings before the high court. The bench also clarified that Balaji would remain in custody during this period.

The next hearing in the Supreme Court is scheduled for Monday 24 July.

(With inputs from LiveLaw)

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