Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and three other accused in the disproportionate assets case, pending against them in a Bangalore court, moved the Supreme Court on Thursday challenging removal of the Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) by the Karnataka government even as arguments were about to conclude.

A Bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana Desai and Ranjan Gogoi directed that the writ petition be listed for Friday, when Justices B.S. Chauhan and S.A. Bobde will hear the matter.

Ms. Jayalalithaa, Sasikala, Ilavarasi and V.N. Sudhakaran said the State government had withdrawn the appointment of SPP Bhavani Singh on a day when he was about to conclude his arguments, after conducting the trial by cross-examining 99 defence witnesses spread over five months between February 28 and July 29, 2013.

The removal of the SPP seriously prejudiced the accused as defence had examined 99 witnesses, marked 384 documents and brought out the lacuna in the prosecution case, the petition said.

The change of the prosecutor would result in a “mis-trial” since the accused had already disclosed their defence by examining witnesses and marking exhibits. “Now, under the guise of appointing a new prosecutor, an attempt is made to reopen the case, with ulterior motives.”

The petition said the SPP was removed “only at the instance of the rival political party [DMK], which wields enormous influence on the ruling party in Karnataka which also is the ruling party of the Central Government. The rival party has been interfering with the prosecution right from the beginning. When they were unsuccessful in scuttling the trial in the courts they have resorted to this devious method of getting the prosecutor removed. The notification removing the SPP is completely arbitrary and politically motivated and shows that it has been passed only to satisfy the whims and fancies of the DMK whose support is extremely necessary for the continuance of the Central Government.”

The petitioners said: “Under the scheme of Cr.PC, a prosecutor is not a persecutor and is expected to act fairly and not at the dictates of political masters… The prerogative of appointing SPPs by the government is not absolute and the government cannot choose SPPs who have to act on their dictates.”

Moreover, the impugned notification did not indicate that the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, in consultation with whom the SPP had been appointed, was consulted on his removal, the petition said.

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