A Special Leave Petition (SLP) has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Madras High Court’s judgment of September 5, 2023, which concluded that there exists no legislation pertaining to the removal of a Minister in custody.
The Case stems from the arrest of V Senthil Balaji by the Enforcement Directorate on June 14, 2023, and his subsequent retention as a Minister in the Tamil Nadu government. The petitioner, Chennai-based social activist M L Ravi has filed the SLP against the Madras High Court’s dismissal of his plea to quash the letter issued by the Governor on June 29, 2023. This letter had suspended a prior order issued on the same day, which sought to dismiss Balaji as a minister. The contention raised by Ravi is that “The Governor cannot revisit, review or modify his own order.”
The petitioner contends that the High Court erred in merely whispering advice to the Chief Minister, who had already announced through a press release his intention to retain Minister Balaji without a portfolio. The plea emphasizes the Governor’s press release expressing displeasure at the continued presence of Minister Balaji due to moral turpitude. It argues that the High Court failed to consider the Governor’s position under the doctrine of functus officio, where he is prohibited from acting upon his own order.
Moreover, Ravi disputes the High Court’s assertion that there is no legislation governing the removal of a Minister in custody. He argues that the court should interpret and fill the vacuum in the absence of a law, citing precedent as a guide until legislation is enacted.
The petitioner also raises a legal question about whether the High Court erred in observing that the Governor can exercise discretionary power to withdraw his pleasure regarding a Minister. This exercise of discretion, according to Ravi, must occur with the Chief Minister’s knowledge.
It is worth noting that in August, the Supreme Court’s division bench dismissed appeals filed by Tamil Nadu Minister and DMK leader, along with his wife Megala, challenging the order granting the Enforcement Directorate custody in a money laundering case. Earlier, the Supreme Court had reserved its verdict in the plea filed by Tamil Nadu Minister V Senthil Balaji challenging the Madras High Court’s decision affirming the Enforcement Directorate’s right to obtain his custody.
The case revolves around Senthil Balaji’s arrest on June 14 by the Enforcement Directorate, linked to alleged irregularities in the selection of bus conductors, drivers, and junior engineers within the Tamil Nadu Transport Department. These appointments occurred during Balaji’s tenure as the Transport Minister in the AIADMK government between 2011 and 2015, with Balaji later aligning with the DMK in 2018.