Some relief for Jayalalithaa

October 18, 2014 01:30 am | Updated November 28, 2021 07:39 am IST

The logic of granting bail post-conviction and pending appeal is that were the appellate court to overturn the verdict, an innocent person who is not expected to flee justice would have been kept in prison unfairly during the period of hearing of the appeal. The Supreme Court, while granting >interim bail to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa , has also made the point about the speedy disposal of the appeal and taken care to obtain an assurance that she would not seek adjournment of her appeal in the Karnataka High Court. The apex court also required the High Court to dispose of the appeal within three months, again underscoring the importance of speedy redress. Indeed, >Chief Justice H.L. Dattu specifically referred to the past conduct of Ms. Jayalalithaa in prolonging the trial for 18 years. Evidently, the court did not want to be seen as being lenient on an issue of corruption involving public servants while allowing her bail. This was especially so since the High Court, while denying her bail, had cited the Supreme Court’s own observations, in a different context, of corruption as a violation of human rights. The grant of bail was not meant to take away from the seriousness of the charges for which she was convicted by the trial court. Now that the trial is over, the question of influencing witnesses or tampering with the evidence did not arise, and bail suggested itself, especially in the context of the Special Public Prosecutor, Bhavani Singh, not having raised any objection in the High Court.

While bail is no doubt a matter of great > relief for Ms. Jayalalithaa , this is but one step in the long haul ahead. The legal battle is far from over, and one way she can return as Chief Minister is with the High Court staying her conviction — an unlikely prospect in the immediate future. Actually, her best chance for a quick return to public office would be not through a stay of conviction, but via a reversal of her conviction on appeal in the High Court. Once back in Chennai, Ms. Jayalalithaa can be expected to take on an advisory role for the AIADMK government and restore some of its lost energy. Although the law and order situation did not spiral out of control in Tamil Nadu during protests against her conviction, the administration seemed paralysed by Ms. Jayalalithaa’s legal troubles. She must desist from functioning as an extra-constitutional authority interfering in the administration, and instead find for herself a role as an interface between the party and the government in policy formulations. Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam quite clearly is looking for political guidance from his party leader, and Ms. >Jayalalithaa can surely help — without breaching the bounds of constitutional propriety.

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