NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice and sought response from the Enforcement Directorate on appeals filed by Tamil Nadu minister V Senthil Balaji and his wife Megala challenging Madras High Court order upholding his arrest and grant of police custody to the agency in a money laundering case and assured the DMK leader that “nothing will happen” till the matter is adjudicated.
Agreeing with the plea of the minister and the agency that the matter be listed at the earliest, a bench of Justices A S Bopanna and M M Sundresh posted the hearing to July 26.
Apprehending that the minister may again be taken into police custody for interrogation by the agency on the basis of the HC order, senior advocate Kapil Sibal and lawyer Amit Anand Tiwari, pleaded the court to pass an interim order to protect him but the bench did not pass any order but assured them that nothing will happen till the next date of hearing.
The couple approached the court after facing a setback from Madras High Court which refused to grant them relief. In a petition filed through advocate Misha Rohatgi Mohta, Megala submitted that the HC verdict was in contrast to the apex court’s earlier rulings.
The whole controversy in the case revolves around two questions– whether ED is entitled for police custody of an accused in money laundering case and whether time spent by accused for medical treatment in police custody be excluded.
While Sibal submitted that ED officers are not police officers to seek police custody for custodial interrogation, solicitor general Tushar Mehta said that there cannot be a situation where ED officials can arrest but cannot seek custody.
“The SC has authoritatively interpreted and explained the object, scheme and ambit of powers under the PMLA in its decision in Vijay Madanlal Chaudhary where it is categorically held that the officers of the ED are not police officers. This finding is based on the larger overall finding that the object of the Act is not penal but regulatory in nature, and that the Act only empowers the ED to conduct an inquiry and not an ‘investigation’ as understood under the provisions of the CrPC. Once ED officers have been held not to be police officers, there is no question of them seeking custody under Section 167 CrPC, which provision is only applicable to an officer in charge of a police station or police officer,” the petition, filed by Megala. said.
“The question of period of police custody under Section 167 of CrPC is a settled law which has been laid down by SC in CBI Vs. Anupam Kulkarni case and consistently followed for the last 30 years and it is that police custody under Section 167 of can only be for the first 15 days of remand and thereafter it can only be judicial custody,” the petition said.
The petitioners submitted that the High Court erred to hold that ED has the right to investigate further after making arrest under Section 19 of PMLA and then seeking custody for further investigation is permissible.


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