Supreme Court had ordered ‘status quo' in the case on July 10, 2007
The Principal Sessions Judge of Cuddalore district on Thursday stayed a non-bailable warrant ordered by a lower court against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in a case filed against her at the instance of the Election Commission in 2007.
The Supreme Court had ordered on July 10, 2007 that ‘status quo' be maintained in the case, effectively staying the criminal proceedings against Ms. Jayalalithaa before the Judicial Magistrate, Parangipettai, in Cuddalore district.
However, the magistrate had ordered the issue of an NBW against her for non-appearance in court on June 27, 2011. At the same time, the magistrate stayed the NBW, but did not dispense with the Chief Minister's personal appearance. The woman magistrate had kept the NBW pending without issuing it until December 30, 2011.
When the matter came up before the magistrate on January 4, she said: “Accused called absent — NBW pending, but not issued; SC matter stayed —Call on February 16, 2012.” The order implied that the warrant was alive and the court was insisting on Ms. Jayalalithaa's appearance before it.
Aggrieved by the order, Ms. Jayalalithaa, through her counsel, filed a petition before the Principal Sessions Judge in Cuddalore on Thursday, seeking a stay on the lower court's order and pleading that the warrant be withdrawn.
Saying that the petitioner came to know of the warrant order only on January 4, 2012, counsel for Ms. Jayalalithaa said: “Since the entire proceedings [in the case] had been stayed by the Supreme Court, issue of warrant against the petitioner was illegal in the eye of law.”
Pointing to the Supreme Court's status quo order, counsel for Ms. Jayalalithaa said no notice or summons was issued to the petitioner. “The petitioner was neither wilful nor wanton in not appearing before the lower court.”
Principal Sessions Judge K. Uthirapathy stayed the June 27, 2011 order until January 19, 2012.
The matter pertains to a case filed by the Returning Officer of the Bhuvanagiri Assembly constituency for alleged violation of the law in her filing nominations from the Andipatti, Krishnagiri, Bhuvanagiri and Pudukottai constituencies ahead of the 2001 elections.
High Court order
The proceedings began when C. Kuppuswamy, then a Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Member of Parliament, moved the Madras High Court seeking action against her on the ground that she had committed an offence by filing papers from more than two constituencies. In June 2007, the High Court had directed the Election Commission of India to file cases in appropriate courts.
A complaint was preferred against Ms. Jayalalithaa by A.G. Selvamani, the then Returning Officer of the Bhuvanagiri constituency, under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act and the Indian Penal Code.
Ms. Jayalalithaa moved the Supreme Court against the High Court's order, and on July 9, 2007, the Supreme Court passed the order of status quo.
During the hearing before the Supreme Court in September 2007, the Election Commission informed the court that no action was called for against Ms. Jayalalithaa pertaining to her filing nominations from four constituencies. The Returning Officers (of the Bhuvanagiri and Pudukottai constituencies) had said Ms. Jayalalithaa had not suppressed any information, as the declarations filed by her earlier in Andipatti and Krishnagiri were made available to them, and hence no action was called for. Moreover, these two nominations were rejected. As it was the Returning Officer who had to decide whether a “false declaration” had been made by a candidate, no action was necessitated under Section 177 of the IPC (furnishing false information before a public servant).
The case is still pending before the Supreme Court, and the next hearing has been fixed for March 14, 2012.
(With inputs from A.V. Ragunathan in Cuddalore)