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The plea in the Jayalalithaa disproportionate assets case was filed by DMK leader K. Anbazhagan who had sought removal of special public prosecutor Bhawani Singh stating that he wasn’t authorized to represent Karnataka. Photo: PTI
The plea in the Jayalalithaa disproportionate assets case was filed by DMK leader K. Anbazhagan who had sought removal of special public prosecutor Bhawani Singh stating that he wasn’t authorized to represent Karnataka. Photo: PTI

Jayalalithaa DA case: Plea to remove public prosecutor referred to larger bench

Plea referred to larger bench after the two judges of the division bench gave differing opinions

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday referred a plea seeking removal of a special public prosecutor in the disproportionate assets (DA) case of former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa to a larger bench of three judges, after a two-judge bench gave a split verdict.

The plea was filed by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader K. Anbazhagan who had sought removal of special public prosecutor (SPP) G. Bhavani Singh stating that he wasn’t authorized to represent Karnataka before the state high court hearing an appeal in the case.

A bench of justices Madan B. Lokur and R. Banumathi gave differing opinions. Justice Lokur found that the appeal in the assets case should be reheard because of the irregularity in Singh’s appointment.

However, justice Banumathi said the special public prosecutor’s appointment can stand until the same was revoked by the state. Since that had not happened, there was no ground to remove Singh.

While the Supreme Court in December had directed that the high court conclude hearing and deciding on the appeal within three months, the case has repeatedly run into hurdles.

Judge Lokur lamented the state of the justice delivery system and called for reform in light of this case.

“This case is a classic illustration of what is wrong with our criminal justice delivery system. If the allegations made by Mr K. Anbazhagan are true that the accused persons used their power and influence to manipulate and subvert the criminal justice system for more than 15 years thereby delaying the conclusion of the trial against them, then it is a reflection on the role that power and influence can play in criminal justice delivery. However, if the allegations made by him are not true, even then it is extremely unfortunate that a criminal trial should take more than 15 years to conclude. Whichever way one looks at the unacceptable delay, it is the criminal justice delivery system that comes out the loser."

A special court had last year found Jayalalithaa and three others—S. Sasikala, V.N. Sudhakaran and J. Elavarasi—guilty of amassing assets disproportionate to their income during her tenure as chief minister during 1991-1996. This appeal is being heard by the Karnataka high court. Jayalalithaa had moved the apex court for bail on 9 October after the Karnataka high court turned it down.

PTI contributed to this report.

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