Senthil Balaji arrest: ED has been ‘abused enough’, Sibal tells Supreme Court

Insight Online News

New Delhi, July 27 : The Enforcement Directorate has been “abused enough” and state governments, led by opposition parties have been toppled with the help of the central probe agency, senior advocate Kapil Sibal on Thursday told the Supreme Court on Thursday.

A bench of Justice A.S. Bopanna and M.M. Sundresh was hearing the special leave petitions filed by arrested Tamil Nadu Minister V. Senthil Balaji and his wife for the second day.

The pleas challenge the decision of the Madras High Court upholding the ED’s right to take the DMK leader into custody in connection with an alleged cash for jobs scandal.

“The Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) has been used and abused enough. But, the more important thing is the future of India in terms of the powers of the Enforcement Directorate, which has come into question,” Sibal, appearing for Balaji, argued, questioning the ED’s power to seek police remand.

The submission met opposition by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the ED, who termed the arguments as “political” and “emotive”.

“Please confine yourselves to the facts of the case. I have demonstrated that so far since 2002, the total number of arrests by the agency has not exceeded 300,” he said.

At this, Sibal retorted: “I have not made this political. But if he wants to make it political, then I must ask, what about the state governments that have been toppled on the basis of the ED.”

In response to Mehta’s argument that the PMLA provides for 2 years imprisonment for making vexatious arrest, Sibal said that “there is never a wrong arrest” and “no one is ever sentenced” for wrongful arrest.

The court intervened to cool the heated exchange between the duo and asked Sibal to continue arguments on the legal issue involved in the matter.

The minister and his wife had approached the top court after a bench of Justice C.V. Karthikeyan of the Madras High Court, the third judge to whom the matter was referred, gave its ruling that the central agency has the right to arrest the legislator. It had said that if the agency can arrest, they can also seek custody as well.

The habeas corpus petition challenging arrest of Balaji by the ED was heard by a three-judge bench on directions of the Supreme Court after a split verdict was pronounced by a division bench on the plea moved by his wife. In the split verdict delivered on July 4, Justice J. Nisha Banu termed the arrest of the minister illegal and ordered him to be set free with immediate effect, while Justice D. Bharatha Chakravarthy differed on the question of his “illegal” detention.

The ED has also filed another petition before the top court challenging some observations made by the high court in its order.

S. Megala, the wife of the arrested minister had moved a petition before the high court assailing her husband’s arrest by the ED in connection with a cash-for-jobs scam that allegedly occurred during his tenure as the Transport Minister from 2011 to 2016 in the then AIADMK government.

In an interim direction passed on June 15, the High Court had ordered to transfer the minister from a government hospital where he was under the custody of ED officials to a private hospital. The ED had filed an appeal before the Supreme Court challenging this.

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