Jailed Tamil Nadu Minister Senthil Balaji Resigns

Tamil Nadu Minister V Senthil Balaji submitted his resignation on Monday, following seven months of being arrested and imprisoned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection to a money laundering and job scam case. This development holds significance given Balaji’s prolonged legal battles and unsuccessful bail attempts, prompting questions regarding his continued presence as a minister in the M K Stalin-led Cabinet without a portfolio.

Chief Minister Stalin’s office confirmed the receipt of Balaji’s resignation, which has been forwarded to the Governor for approval. This move coincides with the upcoming review of his bail plea by the Madras High Court. Balaji’s arrest is linked to an alleged cash-for-jobs scam during his tenure as transport minister from 2011 to 2015 in the Cabinet headed by the late Jayalalithaa, the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.

Before his arrest, the DMK leader held key positions overseeing electricity, excise, and prohibition portfolios. Despite Balaji’s legal challenges, CM Stalin opted to retain him in the state Cabinet without assigning specific responsibilities, instead delegating his duties to other senior ministers. However, this decision failed to address the controversy surrounding his continued Cabinet membership while in prison.

The allegations against Balaji pertain to corruption and illicit financial transactions in the recruitment procedures within the Metropolitan Transport Corporation.

Justice N Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court recently raised concerns regarding Balaji’s extended detention and his continued Cabinet status, emphasizing the implications for the state’s governance and legal norms. The judge pointed out the inconsistency of a minister maintaining his Cabinet position despite spending over 230 days in jail facing serious charges. He highlighted that even lower-ranking state employees would typically face suspension in similar circumstances.

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