It disagrees with plea that she can answer questions in writing without personal appearance
The Supreme Court on Monday indicated to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa that she would have to appear personally before a trial court in Bangalore to answer questions in a disproportionate assets case. A Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma did not agree with the submission that she was prepared to take a risk by answering questions in writing without appearing in person.
Justice Bhandari told senior counsel Harish Salve: “We think you [Ms. Jayalalithaa] have not been advised properly. Except to delay the whole proceedings by a couple of months, we don't find anything in this appeal.”
Earlier, Mr. Salve said that after the 2009 amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code, an accused could answer questions in writing under Section 313 (5). But the trial court declined Ms. Jayalalithaa's request to grant her exemption from personal appearance and to answer questions in writing citing the Supreme Court judgment while transferring the case to Bangalore.
Justice Bhandari said: “We are on a broader principle. Section 313 Cr.PC has been incorporated to meet the principles of natural justice. It is a very salutary provision for the benefit of the accused. You [accused] can even remain silent and not answer any question. The court will have the benefit of the demeanour of the accused while answering the questions.”
When Mr. Salve reiterated that she was prepared to take the risk by not appearing in person and by answering questions in writing, the judge said: “It is not necessary that the trial court should accept what all the accused says. Considering your [Ms. Jayalalithaa's] position, if you want we can ask the trial court to provide you adequate security on the date of your appearance and ask the court to complete the proceedings the same day of your choice.”
Mr. Salve sought time to take instructions and the Bench posted further hearing for September 12.
In her appeal, Ms. Jayalalithaa challenged the August 12 special court order, rejecting her application filed under Section 313(5) Cr.PC to file a written statement instead of personally appearing in court and answering questions under Section 313, and in the alternative to allow questioning through videoconferencing. She sought exemption in view of the fact that as Chief Minister, her life was under threat from various organisations and she had been provided with ‘Z' category security under the instructions of the Union Home Ministry. She said Tamil Nadu and Karnataka were involved in a bitter dispute over sharing Cauvery waters and the row had at times led to attacks on Tamils within Karnataka. In the backdrop of the dispute and attendant political tensions, the entry of her entourage would possibly cause inconvenience to Bangalore residents.