Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa was on Wednesday directed by the Supreme Court to appear before a Bangalore trial court on Thursday in the ‘disproportionate assets case' after Karnataka assured the court of her security.
Rejecting Ms. Jayalalithaa's plea to defer the hearing on the ground that the Karnataka government had failed to provide sufficient security, a Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Dipak Misra asked her to appear as scheduled. The order came after the Karnataka Chief Secretary and its Director General of Police filed affidavits assuring the apex court of foolproof security measures in tune with Ms. Jayalalithaa's ‘Z plus' status and NSG cover.
The trial of the case, allegedly involving accumulation of assets to the tune of over Rs.66 crore by Ms. Jayalalithaa between 1991 and 1996, was shifted to Bangalore by the Supreme Court after DMK leader K. Anbazhagan filed a petition pleading that the AIADMK government might otherwise influence the course of the trial.
When senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi persisted with his apprehensions over her safety, the Bench remarked: “You are a public figure. How can you remain away from people?” It also turned down her plea to at least shift the venue of trial closer to the airport. “What more do you want? The helipad has been prepared. Once the hearing is over, fly back home,” it observed.
Ms. Jayalalithaa's counsel had contended that venue of the trial court being 65 km away from the airport, her safety and security might be rendered more vulnerable. The court was assured by both Karnataka counsel Anita Shenoy and Additional Solicitor General P.P. Malhotra that adequate security measures had been taken to protect Ms. Jayalalithaa.
Despite their assurances, Mr. Rohtagi submitted that the Chief Minister was “under a threat perception,” and hence sought deferment of the hearing by at least a few days. He failed to convince the court, which said: “Please be reasonable. We are also concerned about the security. After these affidavits and the Supreme Court's directions, there cannot be any fears.”
The court reiterated that the State shall provide adequate security to Ms. Jayalalithaa from the time of her arrival till her departure for Tamil Nadu.
The Karnataka Chief Secretary and the police chief, earlier, in sworn affidavits faxed from Bangalore to the court registry, explained the steps taken to provide security to Ms. Jayalalithaa. The affidavits stated that Karnataka had no problem in ensuring security as it was regularly providing it to national and international dignitaries visiting the State.
They contradicted Ms. Jayalalithaa's claim that no prior intimation was provided to her either about the security arrangements or the venue of hearing. Karnataka was in constant touch with Tamil Nadu's State Intelligence Bureau since September 24 on the issue.
Keywords: disproportionate assets case