DMK Minister Senthil Balaji dismissed from cabinet by Tamil Nadu Governor

The statement issued by the Raj Bhavan said Senthil Balaji is facing serious criminal proceedings in a number of cases of corruption including taking cash for jobs and money laundering.
Minister Senthil Balaji
Minister Senthil Balaji
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In an unusual move, Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi, on Thursday, June 29, issued a statement dismissing Minister Senthil Balaji, who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on charges of money laundering, on June 14. Despite his arrest, Senthil Balaji has been retained as a Minister without portfolio in Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin’s cabinet. While the Governor had already expressed his displeasure over Senthil Balaji’s continuation in the Council of Ministers, the Governor on Thursday issued orders for his dismissal. 

The statement issued by the Raj Bhavan said,“Minister Thiru V Senthil Balaji is facing serious criminal proceedings in a number of cases of corruption including taking cash for jobs and money laundering. Abusing his position as a Minister, he has been influencing the investigation and obstructing the due process of law and justice.” 

“Some more criminal cases against him under Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Penal Code are being investigated by the State Police. There are reasonable apprehensions that continuation of Thiru V Senthil Balaji in the Council of Ministers will adversely impact the due process of law including fair investigation that may eventually lead to breakdown of the Constitutional machinery in the State.” the statement added. 

However, the question remains as to whether a Governor has the rights to sack a Minister elected by the people. In October 2022, a similar incident occurred in neighbouring Kerala, when Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan wrote to CM Pinarayi Vijayan informing that he has "ceased to enjoy pleasure" in Finance Minister KN Balagopal, indicating that he wants the minister sacked. Khan accused Balagopal of violating the oath of office after finding certain comments by the minister objectionable. But constitutional experts say that a Governor does not have unilateral power to remove a minister.

“Technically speaking, if the Governor withdraws the pleasure, the minister concerned will cease to hold the office. But again, the Chief Minister also has the power to reinstate that minister, since the Governor has little say on the appointments to the Cabinet. His power is only in regard to the continuity of the minister’s term,” advocate George Poonthottam, a constitutional expert, had told TNM at the time.

Meanwhile, CM Stalin reacted to Senthil Balaji's dismissal and said that Governor does not have the power to remove a Minister. "We will deal with this issue legally," said Stalin.

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