Agency has challenged HC verdict quashing proceedings on grounds of delay

The Supreme Court on Friday granted Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa four weeks to file her response to a special leave petition filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation challenging the September 30, 2011 Madras High Court judgment, which set aside the ‘three lakh U.S. dollars case’ against her on the grounds of inordinate and unexplained delay in the investigation and trial stage.

Earlier, Additional Solicitor-General Siddharth Luthra told the court that notice was issued in February last year and a reply was yet to be filed. A Bench, of Justices S.S. Nijjar and Ibrahim Kalifulla, however, granted her four weeks for filing the reply on a request made by her counsel, and one week for rejoinder. The matter would be listed for hearing thereafter.

The CBI’s allegation was that while functioning as Chief Minister, Ms. Jayalalithaa had accepted 89 demand drafts, for Rs. 2,00,00,012, drawn in her favour on various banks in Tamil Nadu in the names of 57 persons, on the occasion of her birthday in 1992, and also received Rs. 15 lakh in cash — totalling Rs. 2,15,00,012 — and disclosed the same as gifts in her Income Tax returns. Moreover, she received a remittance of $3 lakh by way of a demand draft, dated December 23, 1991, issued by Bankers Trust Company, New York, and drawn on ANZ Grindlays Bank, St. Halia, Jersey.

The CBI said investigation revealed that there was no evidence of the “first offence” and probe continued into the receipt of $3 lakh. Acting on a petition from Ms. Jayalalithaa that there was inordinate delay in investigation and trial, the High Court quashed the proceedings.

The CBI, in its appeal against this judgment, contended that though the offence occurred in 1992, it came to the notice of the Income Tax department only in1996 and was duly communicated to the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary for taking action. As such, there was no delay. The High Court ought to have seen that as per the allegation in the First Information Report, detailed investigation was to be conducted in the U.S., the U.K. and the UAE, which exercise took considerable time. In the light of material available, without testing the same in the trial, the proceedings could not be quashed merely on the ground of delay.

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