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Charges to be framed against ex-TN minister Senthil Balaji on Friday

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Chennai: A city court on Thursday dismissed a petition filed by former Tamil Nadu Minister V Senthil Balaji, which sought to defer the trial in a money laundering case registered against him by the Enforcement Directorate.

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Principal Sessions Judge (PSJ) S Alli, before whom Senthil Balaji was produced by the prosecution through video conferencing (VC) from central prison here, extended his remand till February 16.

"Accused produced through VC. Charge framing by February 16, 2024. Production of accused in person till then. Remand extended till then", the judge added.

The court does not find any merit to defer the trial as prayed for by the petitioner/accused and this petition has been filed to protract the proceedings which deserves to be dismissed, the judge added.

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Dismissing Balaji's petition, the judge said admittedly, the complaint filed by the ED against the petitioner was pending before this court at the stage of framing of charges. Now, petitioner has come forward with this petition u/s 309 of Cr.P.C.to defer the trial till taking of cognizance and framing of charges in the predicate offences, the judge added.

The judge said after hearing Special Public Prosecutor N Ramesh under Sec.226 of Cr.P.C. (Opening the case for prosecution), the court has to decide whether the charge has to be framed against the accused or whether he has to be discharged.

Only after coming to the conclusion that there were materials to frame charges against the accused for the alleged offences, framed charges, and thereafter, the trial has to be commenced. The petitioner has not sought for the relief of deferring the framing of charge only deferment of trial. Therefore, at the stage of framing of charge, the question of deferment of trial does not arise and on that score only the petition was liable to be dismissed, the judge added.

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She added it was also not in dispute that the predicate and scheduled offences in connection with three cases were pending on the file of the Additional Special Court for Criminal Trial against Elected Members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assembly of Tamil Nadu, Chennai.

It was also admitted that on the basis of the above predicate and scheduled offences, the present ECIR (case) has been registered and the complaint has been filed.

It was alleged that the supplementary charge-sheet filed by the predicate agency has not been taken cognizance so far and therefore, the trial in this case has to be deferred till that and framing of charges in those cases.

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On the other hand, SPP Ramesh would submit there was no bar in framing charges against the accused and proceed with the trial.

Referring to the judgments of the Supreme Court, the judge said, "As such, this court is of the considered view that there is no bar either to frame charges against the accused if there are materials, or proceeding with the trial in the present case after framing of charges and the only thing is that the court has to wait for the ultimate pronouncement/decision of the Special Court, trying the schedule offence".

Citing the observations made by the SC in Vijay Sai Reddy case, the judge said the court comes to the conclusion that there was no bar to proceed with the trial and on the other hand, the court has to wait without pronouncing the judgment in the present case till the pronouncement of judgement in the schedule offence.

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Pointing out at the directions issued by the Apex court in another case, the judge said the court arrived at a conclusion that it has to proceed with the framing of charges and then with the trial, since there was no bar for the same, though the scheduled offences were pending with the Special court.

Meanwhile, after hearing elaborate arguments from Additional solicitor general A R L Sundaresan, opposing the bail plea of Senthil Balaji, Justice N Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court posted to February 19 for reply by senior counsel C Aryama Sundaram, appearing for the DMK leader.

M K Stalin's confidant Balaji was arrested on June 14 by the ED in connection with a money laundering case linked to cash-for-jobs scam when he was the Transport Minister during an earlier AIADMK regime.

The ED had on August 12 filed a charge-sheet, running to 3,000 pages against Balaji. The Madras High Court had on October 19 dismissed the bail petition filed by Balaji. His 3 earlier bail applications were dismissed by the PSJ.

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