In a significant development, a sessions court in Chennai has scheduled January 22 for framing charges against Tamil Nadu Minister V Senthil Balaji, who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) last year in connection with a money laundering case. The court proceedings, conducted through video-conferencing from the Central Prison, saw Principal Sessions Judge S Alli extending Balaji’s remand until January 22.
Special Public Prosecutor N Ramesh, representing the prosecution, outlined the case under Section 226 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.). He detailed the plan to prove the charges against Balaji through the examination of 21 witnesses and 77 documents cited in the 3000-page chargesheet filed by the ED in August.
Minister Senthil Balaji, who holds no portfolio, was arrested on June 14, 2023, in connection with a money laundering case related to a cash-for-job scam during his tenure as the Transport Minister in the previous AIADMK regime. Following his arrest, he underwent a bypass surgery at Cauvery Hospital. Subsequently, he faced questioning by the ED and has remained in judicial custody, with periodic extensions by the court.
On January 5, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea seeking Balaji’s removal from the State Cabinet due to his implication in the money laundering case. The bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan emphasized that a governor cannot dismiss a minister without the chief minister’s recommendation.
On January 12, the court is set to announce its decision on Balaji’s third bail petition. Additional Solicitor General ARL Sunderesan argued against considering the third bail application, citing that the contentions raised had already been addressed and dismissed twice. He pointed out that Balaji, still a minister without portfolio, had not cooperated with the ED and was involved in assaulting income tax officials.
The court’s forthcoming decisions will significantly impact the legal trajectory of the money laundering case involving Minister V Senthil Balaji.