IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS. 2284-2285 of 2023
(@SLP (Criminal) Nos. 8939-8940 of 2023)
V. SENTHIL BALAJI ...APPELLANT
THE STATE REPRESENTED BY DEPUTY DIRECTOR AND ORS. ...RESPONDENTS
CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS. 2288-2289 of 2023
(@SLP (Criminal) Nos. 8652-8653 of 2023)
CRIMINAL APPEAL No.__2286 of 2023
(@SLP (Criminal) No.7437/2023)
CRIMINAL APPEAL No._2287__of 2023
(@SLP (Criminal) No.7460/2023)
CRIMINAL APPEAL No.________2290_______of 2023
(@SLP (Criminal) No. 8750/2023)
J U D G M E N T
M.M. SUNDRESH, J.
1. Leave granted.
2. After the Scheduled Offence went through an elongated judicial journey, it is the turn of the Enforcement Case Information Report under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (hereinafter referred to as “the PMLA, 2002”). What is under challenge before us are the orders passed by the majority of the Judges when a reference was made on a difference of opinion by the Division Bench of the Madras High Court, while dealing with a Writ Petition filed seeking a writ of Habeas Corpus in pursuance of an arrest made, followed by a remand to the judicial custody, and then to the authority concerned. Though arguments at length are made at the Bar, the principal issue is only on the remand in favour of the investigating agency, without seeking any specific prayer challenging the remand orders, though additional grounds were raised.
3. Heard Shri Kapil Sibal and Shri Mukul Rohatgi learned Senior Advocates appearing for the appellant and Shri Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General appearing for the respondents. We have also perused the documents and the written arguments filed.
A BIRD’S EYE VIEW:
4. We shall first give a narration of the basic facts sufficient enough to decide the lis. For a proper understanding, we adopt the appeals arising out of Special Leave Petition (Criminal) Nos. 8939-8940 of 2023 as the lead case. The appellant in the appeals arising out of Special Leave Petition (Criminal) Nos. 8652-8653 of 2023 is none other than the wife of the appellant in the appeals arising out of Special Leave Petition (Criminal) Nos. 8939-8940 of 2023, being the writ Petitioner before the High Court. Incidentally, the respondents, though filed separate appeals arising out of Special Leave Petition (Criminal) Nos. 7437 of 2023, 7460 of 2023, and 8750 of 2023, are appositely referred as respondents.
5. The appellant is a Cabinet Minister of the State of Tamil Nadu. After a seesaw legal battle, his status remains that of an accused pursuant to the orders passed by this Court in the Scheduled Offence.
6. A case was registered in Enforcement Case Information Report No. 21 of 2021 by the Respondent No.1 against the appellant and others. It was followed by summons dated 04.08.2021 and 07.10.2021 requiring the attendance of the appellant. Further summons were issued on 07.03.2022 and 24.07.2022. A search was conducted by the Authorised Officer invoking Section 17 of the PMLA, 2002 at his premises on 13.06.2023.
7. Finding that the appellant was not extending adequate cooperation, the Authority had invoked Section 19 of the PMLA, 2002 by way of an arrest on 14.06.2023. An arrest memo was also prepared. Though grounds of arrest were furnished, the appellant declined to acknowledge them. The information pertaining to the arrest was also intimated to his brother, sister-in-law and wife.
8. The appellant was taken to the Tamil Nadu Government Multi Super Speciality Hospital, Chennai as he complained of chest pain. His wife rushed to the High Court and filed a Habeas Corpus petition being HCP No.1021 of 2023 on the very same day. In the meanwhile, the respondents filed an application before the learned Principal Sessions Judge seeking judicial custody for 15 days. An order of remand was passed sending him to judicial custody till 28.06.2023.
What can the Legal Experts do for you? Our team of lawyers is ready to help you in minutes with any legal question.