A special court trying the Rs 66 crore disproportionate asset case against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Tuesday adjourned the recording of the statement of Sasikala Natarajan, second accused in the case till December 8.
Judge B M Mallikarjunaiah adjourned the trial after rejecting an application by Sasikala’s counsel Santhana Gopalan, seeking eight weeks to record her statement under Sec 313 CrPC (power to examine the accused) as she neither knew English nor Kannada and was conversant only in Tamil.
The court also rejected another application by senior counsel B Kumar that a translated version of the questions in Tamil be kept ready for Sasikala to answer on that day and that her statements be recorded in Tamil.
The judge directed advocate Harish, who had earlier assisted the court for translating statements of witnesses, to be the translator for Sasikala and be present on December 8 to translate her statement.
The court earlier allowed an application by Mr. Gopalan, seeking exemption of Ms. Sasikala from personal appearance and directed that she be present on December 8.
In their applications, counsels submitted that charges against Ms. Sasikala were way back in 1997 and that since the evidence itself ran to over 3,000 pages, she needed to be prepared to answer the questions put to her by the court.
Since Tamil was the only language she was conversant with, the court has to grant her the right to understand and answer the questions in the language known to her, they said.
Mr. Kumar submitted that literal translation of a question from English to Tamil “is not possible. In Tamil, translation is done backwards and it will only save time if the translated questions in Tamil are kept ready for the accused to answer in Tamil which can be recorded and then translated”.
The court rejected a suggestion by defence counsel that the assistance of some of the official translators available in Chennai be sought for Ms. Sasikala.
Opposing the applications by the counsels, special public prosecutor B V Acharya termed these as “lame excuses only to seek adjournment and delay” the proceedings.
“There is no precedent when long after prosecution has closed the case, the accused seeks time to record the statement,” Mr. Acharya, also the state Advocate General, said.
Citing examples of languages like Tulu which do not have a script, he pointed out that in such cases, questions are translated in that language and the statement of the accused then translated back into English during the trial itself.
He also urged the court to post the case not later than December 5 for recording Mr. Sasikala’s statement.