The Supreme Court on Friday restrained the Karnataka government from appointing a new Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) in the place of G. Bhavani Singh, who was removed on August 26 even as he was arguing the disproportionate assets case against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and three others in a Bangalore court.
The court passed the interim order on a petition filed by Ms. Jayalalithaa, Ms. Sasikala, Ilavarasi and V.N. Sudhakaran against the removal notification. It asked the petitioners to implead Mr. Singh and DMK general secretary K. Anbazhagan as parties in the petition and issued notice to them as well as to Karnataka, seeking their response by September 3 and posted the matter for further hearing on September 4.
A Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and S.A. Bobde, after hearing senior counsel Uday Lalit and senior counsel B. Kumar for Ms. Jayalalithaa and others, and senior counsel Vikas Singh and senior counsel R. Shanmugasundaram for Mr. Anbazhagan, said: “in the meanwhile no appointment of SPP shall be made by the Karnataka government.”
Mr. Lalit said the government chose to withdraw Mr. Singh’s appointment as SSP on a day when he was about to conclude his arguments after conducting the trial by cross examining 99 defence witnesses from February 28 to July 29 this year. The entire trial was in a limbo, he said adding that the trial judge was due to retire on September 30.
Justice Chauhan intervened and told counsel: “this [retirement of the trial judge] can be taken care by the High Court [by granting extension].
Counsel said if a new SPP was appointed, it would take about three to four months for the person to familiarise with the case and trial would be delayed. Withdrawal of the SPP at this point of time would vitiate the entire proceedings and prejudice the rights of the accused.
When counsel said the SPP was removed at the instance of Mr. Anbazhagan, Justice Chauhan told counsel, “Avoid politics here. Let us discuss the case purely on legal angle.”
When Mr. Lalit said the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court was not consulted while removing the SPP, Justice Bobde said: “we can’t assume that the CJ was not consulted.” Mr. Lalit then suggested that the Bench could call for records from the court Registrar to find out whether there was any consultation on the removal of Mr. Singh.
Justice Chauhan told counsel that in the absence of Mr. Singh being made as a party, it would be difficult for the court to grant relief. Citing the instance of the Gujarat Lok Ayukta, he said: “even after we upheld his appointment, he did not join. The SPP may feel I have faced enough humiliation, I don’t want to continue. You implead him as a party so that we can hear him also. We allow impleadment of Mr. Anbazhagan also. ”