Further hearing on September 23

: The Supreme Court on Friday summoned from the Registrar General, Karnataka High Court, the records relating to the appointment of special public prosecutor Bhavani Singh in February this year for conducting the trial in the disproportionate assets case against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and three other accused in a Bangalore court.

A Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and S.A. Bobde, gave this direction after hearing senior counsel Shekar Naphade and senior counsel Uday Lalit, appearing for Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and others, and Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati, senior counsel M.N. Rao, State Advocate General Ravi Varma Kumar, for Karnataka and senior counsel Viks Singh for DMK general secretary K. Anbazhagan, who had been impleaded in the petition.

On a petition by Ms. Jayalalithaa, Ms. Sasikala, Ilavarasi and V.N. Sudhakaran, the Supreme Court on September 13 stayed an order passed by the Karnataka government removing Bhavani Singh as the special public prosecutor. However on September 16, the State removed the SPP after consulting the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court. This was challenged in a fresh petition.

Mr. Naphade submitted that “there was a concerted effort to prolong the trial after we [four accused] completed our arguments. We don’t know why the SPP was to be changed after six months.” The AG intervened and said the Karnataka Chief Justice had passed a detailed order giving reasons why Mr. Bhavani Singh was being removed and he produced a copy of the order in the court.

While reading out the order it came to light that the then acting Chief Justice had recommended Mr. Bhavani Singh for being appointed as the SPP though his name was not suggested in the four names sent by the State government. In his order the CJ had said “..it appears that the unilateral decision of the [then] acting Chief Justice and action of the State government in appointing Mr. Bhavani Singh as SPP was not strictly in accordance with the directions of the Supreme Court.”

At this juncture, Mr. Naphade said “it is unfortunate that somebody [CJ] sits over judgment on the appointment made by his predecessor, who is from Karnataka and must have known Mr. Bhvani Singh. How can you condemn the acting CJ.” Justice Bobde told the counsel “don’t say anything about the chief justice.”

Mr. Naphade said “the office of the Chief Justice is an institution. Let them produce the original records how the SPP came to be appointed. Why after six months he has been removed.”

When counsel said the SPP was removed when there were no allegations against him, Mr. Vikas Singh intervened and told the court “there are lot of allegations and we have filed a separate petition in the High Court why he should be removed.”

The State Advocate General agreed to convey to the High Court Registrar General the orders of the bench for production of the records and the Bench posted the matter for further hearing on September 23. Ms. Jayalalithaa and others in their petition said the new judge would not be in a position to appreciate the questions put to the accused under Section 313 Cr.P.C., essential for conducting a fair trial. The exercise would have to be repeated before the new judge which would cause great prejudice to the accused, they said.