Jayalalithaa appeal: SC Bench rules out fresh hearing

A file photo of Bhavani Singh.  

A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled out a fresh hearing of the appeals filed by former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and three others against their conviction in a Rs. 66 crore disproportionate assets case.

However, it reserved its judgment on a plea by DMK leader K. Anbazhagan against the appointment of Bhavani Singh as Special Public Prosecutor.

The Bench led by Justice Dipak Misra indicated the appointment of Mr. Singh as prosecutor was “irregular procedure.” But that being so, this irregularity by itself did not warrant a de novo (fresh) hearing of the appeals pending in the Karnataka High Court, Justice Misra observed.

“His appointment is bad. He had no locus standi to argue. But there is no need for fresh hearing,” Justice Misra observed.

The Bench said it will pronounce judgment on April 27.

The prima facie stand of the Bench can be seen simultaneously as a relief for Ms. Jayalalithaa and a victory for Mr. Anbazhagan, who had challenged Mr. Singh’s presence in the appeal proceedings before the High Court.

If there is no fresh hearing of the appeals, there may be no further delay or obstacle in the High Court judge’s path to deliver the judgment on them. There is every possibility that the High Court would now be able to meet the Supreme Court’s tentative deadline of May 12 for delivering its verdict on the appeals.

Justice Misra’s Bench has permitted both the accused and Mr. Anbazhagan to file any further written submissions before the High Court on Monday. The apex court asked the HC judge to scan these submissions with the “utmost care.”

The path chosen by the three-judge Supreme Court Bench also vindicates Mr. Anbazhagan’s argument that the Tamil Nadu government had no authority to appoint Mr. Singh prosecutor in the High Court.

Justice Misra said there was no need for the apex court to go into any allegations traded in the case. Again, he said there was no need for the apex court to examine the delay seen in the case and how the prosecution had dragged on proceedings for 18 whole years.

“Judges need not go into allegations... judges need not go into the delay aspect when appeals are still pending,” Justice Misra said.

He said this Bench would not go into the “prolongation of the case”, but instead settle the question of law on the authority of a public prosecutor and its statutory limits.

The three-judge Bench was set up following a split verdict by a Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and R. Banumathi on the question of Mr. Singh’s authority to appear in the appeals.

Twists and Turns

  • The charges: Conspiracy: As CM, Jayalalithaa conspired with three others to acquire assets to the tune of Rs. 66.65 crore
  • Disproportionate Assets: The assets were disproportionate to her known income
  • Abetment: The other three abetted the offence by acting as benami owners of 32 private firms
  • Prosecution's take: Modus operandi was to deposit cash in benami firms’ accounts
  • Prosecution's take: The firms gave her address as theirs while opening accounts
  • Prosecution's take: Ms. Jayalalithaa spent crores of rupees on renovations and constructions, her foster son’s wedding and possessed huge quantity of jewellery.
  • Counter: Prosecution born and out of malice and vendetta, many illegalities and defects in investigation. She had sufficient income form legal sources. Others were not benamidars.
  • Counter: No material to show sarees, watches and footwear seized were bought during her tenure.
  • Counter: Income-Tax authorities and Tribunals have accepted their returns and valuation of assets.

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Printable version | Jun 11, 2021 5:59:22 PM |

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