In his judgement on the habeas corpus plea filed by Senthil Balaji's wife, Megala, Justice CV Karthikeyan of the Madras High Court, has ruled that Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials can take the accused person into custody for further investigation in spite of not being police officers.
Justice Karthikeyan relied on the Supreme Court judgement in Vijay Madanlal Choudhary vs Union Of India to arrive at this conclusion.
He said, "The concept of custody cannot be extended even if further materials are collected, but the fact that respondents can take custody for further investigation cannot be denied. The respondent, in this case, had a right to get custody. I would align my opinion with the reason given by Justice Bharatha Chakravarthy in this aspect."
Justice Karthikeyan also mentioned the Supreme Court's observations about Balaji and the cash-for-jobs scam during his tenure as Transport minister in his judgement.
Regarding information not being provided about the grounds of arrest, he said, "I reject the argument that grounds of arrest were not informed, because money laundering is not a standalone offence that does not have any background. The respondents were at his doors since June 13. He should have known why. He can't claim innocence."
"Once arrest was effected and it was stated by ED that he had turned violent and refused to receive, a reasonable inference can be drawn that grounds were informed"
On the issue of the judicial remand, he stated, "Whether the judicial remand stands vitiated has to be seen. The main ground of challenge is the fact that when the accused was to be remanded, objection was also filed on behalf of accused. The issue is whether that would vitiate the order of remand itself
"When sessions judge had two pleas, it is well within the domain of the judge to pass an order which is lawfully in order. In the instant case, the first order has been passed on the plea for remand and then objections have been refused.
"It is not for this court to sit in revision or appeal over the remand order passed by the sessions judge. Once accused had applied for bail, then he had subjected to the concept of arrest. Once there is bail, it cannot be without an arrest and judicial remand."
Further, on the issue of the maintainability of the habeas corpus plea, he stated, "Once arrest and remand is made legal, an HCP will not lie. In this matter, I concur with the opinion of Justice Bharatha Chakravarthy that though an HCP is maintainable, in this case, certainly, it is not entertainable."
He also held that the ED's plea for excluding the period of 15-days custody granted by the Sessions Court because it could not interrogate the minister due to medical reasons was permissible.
He sent back the plea to the Division Bench to determine the date from which custody can be taken by the ED. The case will however go to the Division Bench through the Chief Justice, he said.
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