The Supreme Court adjourned the hearing on Wednesday in the petitions filed by the Enforcement Directorate against the Madras High Court, which entertained a habeas corpus petition filed against the arrest of Tamil Nadu Minister Senthil Balaji and allowed him to be transferred to a private hospital for medical treatment.
A vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and MM Sundresh deferred the hearing of the petitions since the Madras High Court is scheduled to hear the subject tomorrow. Despite significant pressure from the Solicitor General of India, the bench opted not to issue any substantive instructions today and instead to await the result of the petition in the High Court.
Arguments of ED
Tushar Mehta, arguing for the ED, objected to the High Court issuing an interim decision in a habeas corpus case brought by Senthil Balaji’s wife. He said that a habeas corpus petition cannot be filed against an arrest by an authority in conformity with the law. He stated that the petitioner’s position before the High Court was that the arrest was unconstitutional since notice under Section 41A CrPC was not issued. However, in the Vijay Madanlal Choudhary case, the Supreme Court ruled that Section 41A CrPC does not apply to proceedings under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
According to SG, the High Court’s consideration of the habeas corpus petition was unlawful in and of itself. In response, the bench stated that the High Court has yet to rule on whether or not the case is maintainable. The bench clarified that entertaining the petition does not imply that it is maintainable. Justice Kant wondered if the Supreme Court could issue a “pre-emptive order” if the High Court ruled that the case was maintainable. When the SG contended that the High Court’s approach runs counter to the Supreme Court’s established precedent in the Rahul Modi case, the bench noted that the ED might address similar concerns before the High Court.
“In the habeas corpus petition, the High Court has simply issued notice.” You have the legal right to argue before the High Court that the habeas corpus petition is unconstitutional. “You can cite any number of judgments, and we have no doubt that the High Court will consider them and issue appropriate orders,” Justice Kant remarked.
The SG then moved on to his second argument, which was the temporary order that permitted Balaji to be transferred to a private hospital. He contended that the interim order rendered the ED’s remand ineffective.
“The point is that you should only get police remand after the medical board declares the man fit and healthy.” The question is whether it should be postponed till he heals. “That is the only point,” remarked Justice Kant. The SG, on the other hand, stated that the Supreme Court ruled in the Anupam J. Kulkarni case that police detention cannot be extended beyond the initial 15 days of arrest. Noting that this viewpoint was challenged in a subsequent judgement, the SG requested that a clarification be issued stating that days spent in hospital care would not be recorded in the first 15 days. However, the bench stated that the case is now being considered by the High Court.
“The High Court must adhere to judicial principles.” And if the High Court makes a mistake, we will look into it…” According to Justice Kant.
“I am pleased that the Court has ruled that a habeas petition can be filed against a remand, and I hope that all citizens take advantage of this remedy.” However, some people are more equal than others.” This sets a bad precedent,” SG added sarcastically. However, the bench quickly responded that the High Court has yet to rule on the maintainability. It further stated that the High Court had given the ED permission to organize a Specialists’ Panel to assess the accused’s health.
The SG reiterated his request that the hospitalized time be omitted from the first 15 days. However, the bench declined to hear this petition, stating that the High Court is looking into the situation. The bench further noted that the ED may have asked the Special Court to delay the duration of remand till the hospitalization period was over.
“The trial court says it will not consider because the High Court is investigating.” The Supreme Court has also stated that it would not investigate what the High Court is investigating. Please explain our situation. “We are helpless,” the SG begged. He also inquired as to how the ED might raise the request for time exclusion in the accused’s habeas petition. The bench, however, stated that the ED could bring all of these matters before the High Court.
Senior Advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, who represented Balaji, stated that the High Court left all matters open. He emphasized that Balaji has four heart blockages and is currently in the post-operative stage.” A bogey is raised that I was admitted.” “They took me and examined me in front of a panel of government doctors,” Kaul explained.
Following the hearing, the bench issued the following ruling:
“Since the High Court has yet to issue its final opinion on the issues –
(i) the maintainability of the habeas corpus petition,
(ii) the exclusion of the detainee’s treatment from the period of custodial interrogation – and since both of these issues are likely to be examined by the High Court on the date fixed, i.e. June 22 or any other subsequent date, we deem it appropriate to post these special leave petitions for hearing on July 4.”
We want the High Court to hear the case on the merits. It is made clear that the pending status of these special leave applications will not be used to adjourn the hearing before the High Court. The High Court’s views in the interim order, as well as any oral observations made by this Court, shall have no influence on the merits of the matter.”
The ED detained Balaii on June 13 in connection with a Cash-for-Job Scam that reportedly transpired between 2011 and 2016 during his stint as Transport Minister during the AIADMK administration. His family subsequently filed a habeas corpus case, questioning the method of his detention and requesting that he be transferred to a private hospital, Kauvery Hospital, for treatment.
Balaji’s family filed a Habeas Corpus petition against the ED’s detention. The Madras High Court has scheduled the case for hearing on June 22, 2023.
On June 15, the Madras High Court rejected Balaji’s temporary bail but granted his family’s request to send him to a private hospital for treatment, Kauvery Hospital. Balaji was apprehended by the Enforcement Directions on June 13 following an 18-hour-long comprehensive search and questioning at his official house, his official chamber at the State Secretariat, and his brother’s apartment. Following the search, Balaji was apprehended by the ED in the early hours of Wednesday. The searches were performed in connection with a Cash-for-Job Scam that reportedly transpired between 2011 and 2016 during Balaji’s time as Transport Minister during the AIADMK administration.
The Madras High Court ordered a new investigation into the scheme in November last year, citing inconsistencies. At the time, the High Court had also denied the Minister’s discharge petition, stating that there were sufficient elements for charging and that the case had an influence on society.
Following that, the Supreme Court overturned the High Court ruling as well as a High Court order stopping the ED proceedings. The Supreme Court authorised the agency to conduct the inquiry by including the charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act.