In a major U-turn within 24 hours, the Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi has put on hold his dismissal of arrested minister V Senthil Balaji from the State Cabinet. The minister without a portfolio is undergoing medical treatment, and is in judicial custody in a criminal case being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
“I have been advised by the Union Minister of Home Affairs that it would be prudent to seek the opinion of the Attorney-General also. Accordingly, I am approaching the Attorney-General for his opinion. Meanwhile, the order of dismissal of the minister Senthil Balaji may be kept in abeyance until further communication from me,” the Governor said in a letter written to Chief Minister MK Stalin this morning.
Ravi on Thursday said he had dismissed Senthil Balaji from the State Cabinet with immediate effect.
“Senthil Balaji is facing serious criminal proceedings in a number of corruption cases, including taking cash for jobs and money laundering. Abusing his position as a Minister, he has been influencing the investigation and obstructing the due process of law and justice,” an official statement said.
Currently, Senthil Balaji is in judicial custody in a criminal case being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate. Some more criminal cases against him under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Penal Code are being investigated by the State Police.
“There are reasonable apprehensions that continuation of Senthil Balaji in the Council of Ministers will adversely impact the due process of law, including fair investigation, that may eventually lead to the breakdown of the Constitutional machinery in the State. Under these circumstances, the Governor has dismissed Senthil Balaji from the Council of Ministers with immediate effect,” the statement said.
On June 14, ED officials arrested the state minister at his official residence in Chennai in connection with an alleged money laundering case. Following arrest, the minister complained of chest pain and was taken to hospital. He was later shifted to a private hospital, where, after a week, he underwent a beating heart coronary artery bypass surgery.
Based on the recommendation of the Chief Minister MK Stalin, the subjects of ‘Electricity, Non-Conventional Energy Development’ handled by Senthil Balaji, have been allocated to Thangam Thennarasu, Minister for Finance and Human Resources Management, in addition to the portfolios already held by him.
On Wednesday, the Chennai Principal Sessions Court Judge S Alli ordered an extension of judicial custody for Senthil Balaji till July 12.
While Chief Minister Stalin retained him in the cabinet without portfolio, the Governor did not agree to Senthil Balaji continuing as a Member of the Council of Ministers, as he is facing criminal proceedings for moral turpitude and is currently in judicial custody.