The uncertainty about when the Karnataka High Court will pass its judgment on the appeals filed by former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and three others ended on Friday after it was officially disclosed that it will be pronounced on May 11.
The wait was marked by intense anticipation as the May 12 deadline given by the Supreme Court for delivery of judgment neared. Speculation about an early verdict has been rife over the last two days. Simultaneously, there is much curiosity about what will happen on the day the High Court delivers its verdict.
First, Ms. Jayalalithaa need not be present in court when the judgment is pronounced. It is only in the trial court that the accused are required to be present at the time of the judgment, as per the Criminal Procedure Code.
Secondly, if the conviction is confirmed, will the High Court suspend its own sentence to enable those convicted to go on appeal to the Supreme Court? According to lawyer K. Radhakrishnan, the powers to suspend a sentence under Section 389 of the Code are invoked by the trial court because every person convicted, except in specific cases, has a statutory right of appeal in the High Court. “When the sentence is less than three years, the trial court has the powers to suspend it to enable the appeal.”
However, once a High Court upholds the conviction by the trial court, the Supreme Court can be approached only through Special Leave. In other words, it is left to the apex court’s discretion to decide on whether to admit the appeal by the convict or reject it without admission. “Since there is an element of doubt in the Supreme Court admitting an appeal, High Courts do not suspend their own sentence. Bail could be obtained only after the apex court admits the appeal and suspends the sentence,” he said.
Thirdly, if the conviction is confirmed by the High Court and a jail term is specified, what happens next? Senior criminal lawyer, A. Natarajan, said time is provided for the convict to surrender before the original trial court. “The trial court issues a warrant after which the convict has to surrender. Usually, some amount of time is available for this after the High Court judgment is delivered,” he said.
In fact, the convict has to obtain a surrender certificate from the trial court and attach a copy of it with the Special Leave Petition to be filed for appeal in the Supreme Court. “Without that certificate, the application will not even be numbered,” Mr. Radhakrishnan said.