Supreme Court refers Anbazhagan's plea to larger bench

K. Anbazhagan's plea against the appearance of SPP Bhavani Singh has been referred to a larger bench.  

The Supreme Court hearing on a petition filed by DMK leader K. Anbazhagan for removal of Bhavani Singh as Special Public Prosecutor in the appeals filed by former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and her co-accused in a Rs. 66.65-crore disproportionate assets case proved inconclusive on Wednesday.

The bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and R. Banumathi differed in their opinion on whether Special Public Prosecutor Bhavani Singh had authority to appear in the appeals before the Karnataka High Court.

In a strongly-worded judgment, Justice Lokur separately observed that Bhavani Singh's continuation as prosecutor in the appeals was a sign of the "failure of criminal justice delivery system" and entire appeals proceedings stands vitiated. Justice Lokur observed that it indicated how persons in power with influence could "manipulate" the criminal justice delivery system.

Justice Lokur said the fact that the trial went on for 15 years is itself unfortunate proof that justice delivery system has become a tool in the hands of the influential and powerful.

He said the time to correct this malaise is now as this case is a "classic illustration" of what is wrong with justice dispensation in the country.

Justice Lokur, who is the lead judge in the bench, said the justice delivery system is the ultimate loser.

Dissenting with Justice Lokur, Justice Banumathi said Mr. Bhavani Singh has authority to appear as prosecutor in the appeals as he was notified as special public prosecutor for the case and not to any particular court.

Justice Banumathi observed in her judgment that Mr. Singh can continue as prosecutor until the State of Karnataka cancels the February 2, 2013 notification appointing him.

Justice Lokur finally ordered that because of the "difference of opinion" between the bench, the case is referred to a larger bench.

On a query whether the Karnataka High Court would now have to wait till the larger bench decides the case, Justice Lokur expressed non-committance.

"Let the judge decide what he wants," Justice Lokur said.

The Supreme Court three-month deadline to complete the appeal proceedings ends in a day.

Meanwhile, another bench led by Chief Justice H.L. Dattu is scheduled on April 17 to hear separate pleas by Ms. Jayalalithaa and other accused for extension of bail.

Mr. Anbazhagan, represented by senior advocate T.R. Andhyarujina and advocate V.G. Pragasam, had moved the Supreme Court on February 20 challenging two separate orders passed by the High Court.

In the first order on February 5, the high court dismissed Mr. Anbazhagan's plea to help the prosecution side in the appeals while observing that he is a “political opponent” and has no statutory right.

On February 11, the high court rejected his challenge against Mr. Singh's authority as Special Public Prosecutor.

In his petition, Mr. Anbazhagan contended that the original notification of February 2, 2013 on appointment of Mr. Singh as prosecutor was limited to the trial stage and it cannot be “stretched” to include the appellate stage also.

Mr. Anbazhagan denied that his view was coloured by “political vendetta”.

Ms. Jayalalithaa and three co-accused were convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act for amassing wealth disproportionate to their income during her tenure as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu between 1991 and 1996.

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 13, 2021 8:53:53 PM |

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