PSJ Court dismisses bail plea of TN Minister Senthilbalaji

Chennai, Sep 20 (UNI) A Principal Sessions Court on Wednesday dismissed the the bail application of Tamil Nadu Minister V Senthil Balaji, who was now in judicial custody following his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case.

Principal Sessions Judge S Alli refused to grant bail accepting the ED’s strong contention that there was possibility of tampering with the witnesses as Mr Senthilbalaji was a Minister though without portfolio.

Additional Advocate General R.Sundaresan contended that as the accused is a powerful person and a Minister even after his arrest, he could tamper with the witnesses if enlarged on bail.

During the earlier hearing on September 15 when the Judge reserved the orders on the bail plea, senior counsels Kabil Sibal and N R Elango appearing for the Minister demanded bail for him on two grounds–“BJP is pressuring Mr Senthilbalaji to join the saffron party and his health is unwell and deteriorating”.

Contending that the case was made out of political vendetta, Mr Sibal wondered “How come Mr Senthilbalaji alone can be accused of money trail that went for about 9 years” and told in the open court that the ED is pressuring Mr Senthilbalaji to join the BJP–a charge denied by the ED.

Mr Sibal further submitted that the court should not read the twin conditions of Sec 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) as white and black at this stage of the trial.

“Section 45 of PMLA reads that bail can be granted in favour of the accused if the court is satisfied that he is not guilty and he is not likely to commit any offence while on bail”, he said and also submitted that the ED has not provided adequate proof that Mr Senthilbalaji received Rs.1.34 crore as cash for jobs.

In his arguments, Mr Elango contended that the entire ED acquisition is upon electronic evidence which cant be relied on in this present case. A number of electronic gadgets including a pen drive have been seized from Mr Senthilbalaji’s residence by the Central Crime Branch (CCB).

However, the Investigation Officer (IO) has not noted down the serial number of the seized items. In the course of the investigation they filed a report with the entirely different serial number of the pen drive.

He also contended that the electronic evidence may be tampered with and said that IO held the pen drive with him illegally for 6 days after the seizure.

Observing that the investigation agency took three months to extract the data from the pen drive, Mr Elango said in the course of the three months the 284 documents in the pen drive were reduced to 62.

The Additional Advocate General (AAG) A R L Sundaresan contended that Sec 45 of PMLA act cannot be interpreted as how the senior counsel interpreted.

The AAG said the mere submission of Income Tax returns of Mr Senthilbalaji could be acceptable to substantiate the cash deposit of the accused’s bank account.

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