The Chennai Principal District and Sessions Court, on Friday, January 12, dismissed the bail petition of former Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) cabinet minister Senthil Balaji for the third time. Principal Sessions Judge S Alli observed there was no change of circumstances in the case and denied the bail application. Senthil Balaji, who is currently serving as minister-without-portfolio, was earlier denied bail twice by the same court.
Senior advocate Aryama Sundaram, appearing for Senthil Balaji, argued that the ED had ‘tampered’ with documents and added that there was sufficient doubt regarding the materials submitted by the enforcement agency. He further stated that the former cabinet minister had undergone more than 200 days of incarceration and that the investigation was over. Stating that continued incarceration would be pre-punishment for the alleged offence, the senior counsel moved the court to grant bail to Senthil Balaji.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) ARL Sundaresan, appearing for ED, contended that the grounds raised in the present bail petition had been raised in previous petitions, which had already been denied by the court. He also said there was an attack on Income Tax (IT) department officials during a raid and argued that Senthil Balaji should not be granted bail. In May last year, supporters of the former Cabinet minister attacked four officials from the IT department while raids were being carried out in the homes of TASMAC contractors in Karur.
Senthil Balaji was arrested in June 2023 by the ED in a money laundering case in the cash-for-jobs scam. His bail plea was earlier dismissed twice – in September 2023 and June 2023 by the District Sessions Court, stating that allegations against him are "categorical" and noted that he had a "definite role" in the commission of the offence charged against him. He was also denied bail on medical grounds once each, by the Madras HC and the Supreme Court.
Before his arrest by the ED, Senthil Balaji was in charge of Electricity, Non-conventional Energy, Prohibition and Excise Departments in the Tamil Nadu government. The ED has charged Balaji and his accomplices, saying that he had taken money from job seekers and promised them employment in the state transport department during his tenure as the Transport Minister from 2011 to 2016 when he was a part of the then All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government, before switching to the DMK.