New Delhi: A plea has been moved in the Supreme Court, challenging Madras High Court’s decision refusing to consider a petition against the continuance of V Senthil Balaji as a minister in the Tamil Nadu government, despite his arrest.
The petition filed before the apex court by activist M L Ravi cited that Tamil Nadu governor issued a letter on June 29, 2023 regarding dismissal of Minister Balaji with immediate effect, as of powers conferred under Articles 154, 163 and 164 of the Constitution of India, and on the same day in the late hours issued another letter to keep the already issued order in abeyance, citing that the Ministry of Home Affairs advised seeking opinion from advocate general. “This is arbitrary, ultra vires and against the Constitution, where he cannot take back his order as he is functus Officio”, said the plea.
The plea further submitted that the constitutional function of the council of ministers headed by the chief minister is to aid and advise the governor in the exercise of his functions, however, if there is a constitutional breach or deviant behaviour of those in public office, the governor can act in his own discretion. The petitioner asked the court to direct that the withdrawal of the governor's letter of June 29, 2023, withholding the pleasure due to moral turpitude in Balaji's case, should be kept in abeyance till disposal of the matter.
On September 5, the high court declined to issue any direction on a batch of petitions questioning the continuance of Balaji as a Minister without portfolio in the Tamil Nadu Cabinet even after his arrest on June 14 by the Enforcement Directorate.
The plea contended that neither the Constitution nor the Representation of People Act of 1951 disqualifies a person to be a Member of the State Legislative Assembly after he is under custody or is undergoing trial after framing of the charges. “It is the contention of the petitioners that if the Minister is under custody, then in that case he has disabled himself from performing any work”, said the plea.
It further added that the minister enjoys the perks and allowances at the cost of the public exchequer and a person in custody cannot perform any work nor files can be sent to him and as such, though he is disabled from functioning as a minister, he is burdening the public exchequer, nor he can transact any business and as such, the person cannot continue as a minister.
The plea submitted that the high court erred in noticing that the June 29, 2023 letter issued by the governor in dismissal of the minister under Article 154, 163 and 164 of the Constitution with immediate effect and after-hours issue another to keep the dismissal order in abeyance. The plea claimed the high court is not correct in stating that there is no legislation on the removal of minister who is in custody, where by precedent the court has to interpret and keep the vacuum filled till the law is enacted.