DMK leader V Senthil Balaji is presently a Tamil Nadu minister without a portfolio (File).
A Chennai court on Wednesday dismissed Tamil Nadu minister V Senthil Balaji's bail plea. Mr Balaji - accused in an alleged cash-for-jobs scam when he was a cabinet member in the Jayalalithaa government - was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in June on money laundering charges.
Mr Balaji's arrest triggered a massive political row that included a high-profile spat between Chief Minister MK Stalin and Governor RN Ravi over the latter's controversial attempt to sack the minister.
Last month the court extended Senthil Balaji's judicial custody till September 15. That was before the Supreme Court dismissed pleas challenging a Madras High Court order upholding his arrest.
Mr Balaji is currently a minister without a portfolio; he has been retained in the Tamil Nadu cabinet by Mr Stalin as a show of support. The Madras High Court, however, has taken a dim view of that move. Two weeks ago the High Court said Mr Stalin might be better advised to rethink his position.
"Political compulsion cannot outweigh the public morality, requirements of good/clean governance and the Constitutional morality," a bench led by Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala said.
READ | 'Minister Without Portfolio Serves No Purpose': Madras High Court On Senthil Balaji
The High Court also referenced a Supreme Court judgement that said a Chief Minister, and even the Prime Minister, may be well advised to consider including any person (in their cabinet) against whom charges have been framed by a criminal court.
"In the present case, V Senthil Balaji is a minister without portfolio, meaning... no work is allotted to him... no purpose is served by just ceremonially retaining him as a minister," the bench had said.
READ | NDTV Exclusive: Letters Reveal Why Tamil Nadu Governor Retracted Big Decision
Mr Balaji was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in dramatic fashion; he was taken into custody following hours of questioning and hospitalised immediately after complaining of chest pain.
Visuals of him weeping in the ambulance and while being wheeled into the hospital, were widely circulated. Hours later an angiogram was conducted and he was advised a cardiac bypass surgery.
DMK leader PK Sekar Babu alleged his party colleague had been tortured, claiming, "There is a swelling near his ear... doctors say there is variation in ECG... these are symptoms of torture."
Mr Balaji was arrested after lengthy raids at premises owned by him across Tamil Nadu. This was after the Income Tax Department conduced raids of its own in connection with claims he had taken bribes between 2011 and 2015 from people looking for jobs in the state transport department.