4 Sep 2023 1:14 PM GMT
The Madras High Court on Monday directed the Principle Sessions Court in Chennai to hear the bail plea moved by Tamil Nadu Minister V Senthil Balaji who has been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case. The bench of Justice R Suresh Kumar and Justice K Kumaresh Babu noted that since the offence alleged to have been committed by Balaji was one punishable...
The Madras High Court on Monday directed the Principle Sessions Court in Chennai to hear the bail plea moved by Tamil Nadu Minister V Senthil Balaji who has been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case.
The bench of Justice R Suresh Kumar and Justice K Kumaresh Babu noted that since the offence alleged to have been committed by Balaji was one punishable under Section 4 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, only a Special Court designated under Section 43(1) of the Act by the Central Government could try the same.
“Therefore, whatever the offence that has been alleged against anyone, which is punishable under Section 4 of the PMLA Act, that has to be tried only by Special Courts designated under Section 43(1) of the PMLA Act by virtue of the notification of the Central Government issued in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned, where the proposed Court is located,” the court observed.
The court also noted that the Central Government had, in accordance with the Act, designated the Principal Sessions Court in Chennai as the Special Court to try cases under the PML Act. Further, since the territorial jurisdiction of the case was Chennai District, which came under the jurisdiction of the Principal District Judge as per the notification, the court said that the case could be tried by the Principal District Judge.
“When that being the position, since the territorial jurisdiction of the case in hand is in Chennai District only, therefore Chennai being one of the jurisdictional area under the notification issued by the Central Government as referred to above, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Principal District Judge, Chennai, naturally the said case has to be tried in the said Court, since the alleged offence is to be punished only under Section 4 of the PMLA Act,” the court added.
The court thus gave a quietus to the turmoil that was created following an order of Principal District Judge, transferring the case bundles in connection with the money laundering case against the Minister to the Special Court to try cases against the MLAs and MPs on August 14 2023.
The court was informed that after the case papers were transferred or made over to the Special Court for trying cases exclusively against MPs and MLAs, Balaji filed a bail application on the ground that the investigation was over and no more interrogation was required and also on medical grounds.
Senior Counsel NR Elango, appearing for Balaji informed the court that the Special Court, on the same day, returned the bail application saying that it was not designated under Section 43 of the PMLA and to present the application before the Principal Judge. Elango further submitted that thereafter when the bail application was presented before the Principal Judge, it was again returned saying that the entire case records had been transferred to the Special Court as the accused is a Member of Legislative Assembly with a liberty to approach the Special Judge. Further, though the bail application was re-presented, the Special Judge did not accept the same and orally returned it.
The court noted that since the Principal District Court, Chennai has been designated as Special Court to try money laundering cases through a notification issued by the Government of Indian dared February 5, 2016, the transfer of the case to another Special Court for trial of cases exclusively against MLAs and MPs was not in consonance with the PMLA.
“When that being so, we feel that the very transfer of the case or made over made by the learned Principal Judge, Chennai by transferring the case papers to the Special Court No.I for Trial of Cases exclusively against MLAs and MPs, is not in consonance with Section 43(1) of the PMLA Act vis-a-vis the notification issued by the Central Government dated 05.02.2016 under notification No.SO.370(E),” the bench observed.
The court added that since the case papers had been transmitted to the Special Court, it had to be withdrawn and re-transferred to the Principal Judge.
Thus, the court set aside the endorsement/return order made by the Principal Judge and directed the Principal Judge to withdraw the madeover and entertain Balaji’s bail plea and to dispose of it at the earliest.
Case Title: V Senthil Balaji v Deputy Director, Director of Enforcement
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Mad) 252