A two-judge bench of the Madras High Court on Tuesday delivered a split verdict on a petition filed by the wife of jailed Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader V Senthil Balaji, alleging that he had been illegally detained by the Enforcement Directorate, reported Live Law.

A bench of Justices J Nisha Banu and Bharatha Chakravarthy said that the chief justice of the Madras High Court will give further orders on the matter.

On June 14, the Enforcement Directorate arrested Balaji on the allegations of conspiring with transport corporation officials to appoint candidates recommended by his aides. The agency has claimed that crores of rupees were taken as bribes from candidates in exchange for jobs.

After his arrest, Balaji complained of heart ailment and is currently admitted to the Kauvery Hospital in Chennai. He underwent a bypass surgery on June 21.

On Tuesday, Justice Banu held that the petition filed by Balaji’s wife Megala was maintainable and that the Enforcement Directorate does not have powers under the Prevention Of Money Laundering Act to seek police custody.

The judge also dismissed an application filed by the central agency seeking to exclude the days when Balaji underwent treatment while calculating the period for custodial interrogation.

Justice Chakravarthy differed with the view taken by the senior judge and said that Megala’s petition did not make out a case to prove that Balaji’s detention was illegal. The judge also allowed the Enforcement Directorate to exclude the period of treatment from the duration for which he is kept in custody, Live Law reported.

Hours later after the split verdict, the Supreme Court directed the High Court to place the petition before a three-judge bench, reported PTI. The Supreme Court also asked the High Court to decide on the matter expeditiously.

The Supreme Court is hearing a petition filed by the Enforcement Directorate challenging a Madras High Court order to shift Balaji to a private hospital. On June 21, the Supreme Court had refused to stay the order. It will now hear the case on July 24.

Case against Senthil Balaji

The alleged irregularities in the case took place between 2014 and 2015, when Balaji was the state transport minister. He was then a leader of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. He joined the DMK in December 2018.

After his arrest, the Madras High Court had dismissed an interim bail petition but allowed him to get treatment.

Two more public interest litigations had been filed before the Madras High Court in June challenging the DMK leader’s continuation in the Cabinet despite him being in judicial custody. On June 26, the court had asked the petitioners if there was any legal provision that allowed the governor to dismiss a state minister.

Days later, Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi passed an order to dismiss Balaji from the state Cabinet citing “serious criminal proceedings” against him. Ravi passed the order without any consultation or recommendation from Chief Minister MK Stalin, as is the convention. However, the Tamil Nadu government has said it will disregard Ravi’s orders.