The Supreme Court on Tuesday exempted Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa from personal appearance in a trial court in Bangalore scheduled for Wednesday in the disproportionate assets case because of the ongoing Assembly session.
But it asked the other accused — V.K. Sasikala, V.N. Sudhakaran and J. Elavarasi — to appear in the court as per the October 3 order of special judge G.B. Mudigoudar.
A Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and S.A. Bobde passed this order on a fresh writ petition Ms. Jayalalithaa and others filed against the appointment of Mr. Mudigoudar to succeed Balakrishna, who retired on September 30.
Senior counsel Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Ms. Jayalalithaa and others, faulted the Karnataka government and the Karnataka High Court for appointing the new judge on October 3, ignoring the Supreme Court’s September 30 order. When he said the High Court had not even met to consider extending the services of Mr. Balakrishna, Justice Chauhan asked him: “On what basis are you making this allegation? Did you verify this fact with the High Court? Did you get this information under the RTI [Act]? How can you say the High Court had not considered our order?”
When counsel said, “It is based on inference and this court may call for the records,” Justice Bobde observed: “When you make serious allegations against the High Court, you must be very careful when you [the petitioner] file your affidavit.” Counsel replied: “There is more to it than meets the eye, and inference can be drawn that the High Court had not complied with your order.”
When counsel insisted that Wednesday’s proceedings be stayed, Justice Bobde said: “Having passed an order that there must be a speedy trial, we can’t stay the proceedings.”
Granting exemption to Ms. Jayalalithaa, the Bench, however, asked the petitioners to file a better affidavit, explaining how they came to know that the High Court had not complied with the September 30 order. It scheduled further hearing for Wednesday.
Allowing Bhavani Singh to continue as Special Public Prosecutor, the Supreme Court had asked the State government and the High Court to consider extending the services of Mr. Balakrishna who attained the age of superannuation on September 30, so that the trial could be expedited. The petitioners said that without implementing this directive, the State issued a notification on October 3, appointing Mr. Mudigoudar as presiding judge with retrospective effect from October 1.
On October 3 itself, the Special Judge took up the case, directing them to appear in court on October 30. They said that to the best of their information, there had been no meeting of the judges on the administrative side of the High Court, “which is the practice followed before any such appointment.” They sought that the notification be quashed and all further proceedings in the trial court and the operation of the October 3 order passed by the judge be stayed.