Cash-for-jobs scam: Withdrawing plea in SC for medical bail, TN minister Senthil Balaji to approach trial court for regular bail

SC permitted Balaji, to withdraw his plea and approach trial court for regular bail observing that ailment cited was not serious and curable.

ByParmod Kumar

Published Nov 28, 2023 | 1:33 PMUpdatedNov 28, 2023 | 2:10 PM

Senthil Balaji Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Tuesday, 28 November, permitted imprisoned Tamil Nadu Minister and DMK leader V Senthil Balaji to withdraw his plea for medical bail and approach the trial court for regular bail in the alleged cash-for-jobs scam case, observing that the ailment cited by Senthil Balaji is not serious and is, in fact, curable.

Declining to entertain the plea for bail on medical grounds, Justice Bela M Trivedi — heading a Bench also comprising Justice Satish Chandra Sharma — said, “We are not satisfied as the ailment being cited for medical bail is not serious and is curable.”

Related: Supreme Court seeks TN Minister Senthil Balaji’s latest medical reports

Keep all issues open

Keeping open all the issues that could be raised before the trial court for regular bail — both by Balaji and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) — the Vench said in its order that the plea for regular bail would be decided without being influenced by the observations made by the trial court and the Madras High Court in their respective orders.

As senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for Balaji took the Bench through the MRI report of the minister, Justice Bela Trivedi said that she had searched on Google whether the ailment that had been relied upon for the medical bail was curable.

She said, “I have checked on Google. It says it can be cured.”

“There is nothing serious and you can apply for regular bail. It is a (plea for) medical bail. We are not satisfied,” she added.

Also read: Madras High Court denies bail to Tamil Nadu Minister V Senthil Balaji

Previous hearing

In the last hearing of the matter on 20 November 2023, the Supreme Court had asked Balaji to furnish his latest medical reports for its perusal.

The court had called for the latest medical report as senior advocate Rohatgi, who appeared for Senthil Balaji, had told the court that the incarcerated Tamil Nadu minister was suffering from multiple ailments and referred to his brain MRI report. He stated that if not treated, he was likely to have a stroke.

However, the Bench observed that this does not appear to be a severe problem and looks like an old problem.

Balaji approached the top court challenging the 19 October Madras High Court order dismissing his bail plea.

The high court had held that Balaji was likely to influence the witnesses if enlarged on bail. The court also observed that Balaji’s medical condition was not such that it could be taken care of only if he was released on bail.

Also read: Senthil Balaji admitted to hospital due to a brief illness

Arrest and the case

Senthil Balaji was arrested by the ED on 14 June in an alleged cash-for-jobs scam that took place when he was the transport minister (2011-2015) in the AIADMK-led government of late chief minister J Jayalalithaa.

The ED arrested Balaji in connection with a money laundering case rooted in the alleged scam. Balaji crossed over to the ruling DMK in 2018.

The Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) was registered on the basis of three FIRs lodged against him by the local police in 2018 for his alleged involvement in the cash-for-jobs scam in 2015.

The ED, in its charge sheet, stated that the entire recruitment process in the Tamil Nadu Transport Department during the tenure of Senthil Balaji as its minister was turned into a “corrupt chiefdom” and the cash-for-jobs scam was executed under his authority.

Balaji played a “pivotal and central” role, “exploiting” his official capacity as the transport minister for personal gains through corrupt and illegal means, the charge sheet claimed.