Trial in disproportionate assets case against Jayalalithaa and three others in a Bangalore court

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Karnataka government as to why it did not oppose the initial appointment of Bhavani Singh as the Special Public Prosecutor in February this year when he was chosen by the then Acting Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court for conducting the trial in the disproportionate assets case against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and three others.

A Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and S.A. Bobde, after perusing original records relating to the appointment of Mr. Singh told the Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati, “we were searching for the information whether the State government had raised any objection when he [Mr. Singh] was appointed.”

The Bench was hearing the writ petitions filed by Ms. Jayalalithaa and three others accused in the case in a Bangalore trial court.

Mr. Justice Chauhan told the AG “the State had sent four names to the then ACJ. Instead of choosing one name, the ACJ had recommended Mr. Bhavani Singh. We wanted to find out whether the State had raised any objection. But there is nothing on record. We only find that his [Mr. Singh’s] remuneration is on the higher side.”

Senior counsel Shekar Naphade and senior counsel Uday Lalit, appearing for Ms. Jayalalithaa and others, alleged that there was a concerted attempt to prolong the trial after the petitioners had completed their arguments. “We don’t know why Mr. Bhavani Singh was removed after allowing him to argue for six months.

The delaying tactics started on August 13 when the first petitioner’s [Ms. Jayalalithaa] political rival [DMK] started intervening and the malafides are writ large. Their [DMK] limited purpose is that the present judge is going to retire on September 30 and we will prolong the trial.”

Counsel said if a new judge was to take up the case and the new SPP was to argue the matter it would take at least a year for completion of the trial as there were 34,000 documents and pages.

He said the political rival’s intention was to keep the pot boiling till the 2014 general elections. He alleged that there was collusion between the political rival [DMK] and the Karnataka government, which was aiding and abetting its partner.

Mr. Naphade said the apex court in exercise of its power under Article 142 of the Constitution could direct the State to extend the tenure of the present judge.

To a question from Justice Bobde, counsel said “the present judge was attaining the age of superannuation of 60 years on September 30 and there are provisions under the Karnataka Rules for granting such extension.”

Senior counsel Vikas Singh for DMK general secretary K. Anbazhagan, who had been impleaded in the petition, intervened and said the SPP by making the investigating officer as a defence witness had made a mockery of the trial.

Arguments will continue on Tuesday when Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati, senior counsel M.N. Rao and State Advocate General Ravi Varma Kumar will reply for Karnataka.