Whether Jayalalithaa’s dream would fructify or not election results will tell, but first she needs to clear a major hurdle – the disproportionate wealth case currently on in a special court in Bengaluru.
Jayalalithaa’s 1991-1996 tenure was marred by numerous corruption charges. During the 1996 elections, DMK made corruption by the Jaya regime their main poll plank, and swept the polls. Back in power, DMK Chief Karunanidhi was quick to slap dozens of corruption cases against Jayalalithaa and her ministerial colleagues. Jayalalithaa’s frantic efforts to avoid arrest did not fructify.
Dismissing her seven anticipatory bail applications, Justice C.Shivappa of the Madras High Court observed ” “the substratum of the case is that offences were perpetrated against the state and its economy, such offences being heinous in nature, it was not proper to grant anticipatory bail, which might have an effect of interference in the investigation. The charge is so serious that investigation had to be done in India and abroad. It would be virtually inapt to grant bail.”
But Jayalalithaa managed to wriggle out of most of the corruption charges filed against her by the DMK government, albeit with censures by Court. In the TANSI land deal case, Jayalalithaa escaped the bars by a whisker.
While acquitting Jayalalithaa in the Tansi case, the Supreme Court observed “Good ethical behavior on the part of those who are in power is the hallmark of a good administration and people in public life must perform their duties in a spirit of public service rather than by assuming power to indulge in callous cupidity… Irrespective of the fact whether we reach the conclusion that A-1 (Jayalalithaa) is guilty of the offences which she is charged or not, she must atone for the same by answering her conscience in the light of what we have stated not only by returning the property to TANSI unconditionally but also ponder over whether she had done the right thing in breaching the sport of the Code of Conduct and giving rise to suspicion that rules and procedures were bent to acquire the public property for personal benefit, though trite to say that suspicion, however, strong, cannot take (the) place of legal proof in a criminal case, and take steps to expiate herself.”
Though Jayalalithaa managed to clear herself of most of the corruption charges, the assets case in Bengaluru continues to haunt her. After coming back to power in 2001, Jayalalithaa, fraught with anxiety to cross the legal hurdles, tried to complete the trial in a jiffy and get herself acquitted. The Vigilance Department, DMK alleges, successfully managed to turn many prosecution witnesses hostile.
But an alert DMK moved the Supreme Court to transfer the trial out of Tamil Nadu. Convinced that the legal process was being subverted in Tamil Nadu, the SC ordered the trial to be transferred out of Tamil Nadu. SC, while transferring, observed, “It is undisputed that 76 witnesses have been recalled. Many of them had earlier been cross-examined. On a question from Court we were informed that the witnesses were recalled as Senior counsel for the second Respondent had been busy attending to some other case filed against her when they were first examined. This could hardly have been a ground for recall of witnesses. The fact that the public prosecutor now appointed did not object to such an application itself suggests that free and fair trial is not going on. It appears that process of justice is being subverted.”
With numerous petitions filed making various demands, the accused in the case including Jayalalithaa and confidantes have managed to prolong the trial for 17 long years now – but part of the blame should go actually to her tormentor and arch rival Karunanidhi.
In his desperation to gain political mileage, Karunanidhi filed a fresh assets case against Jayalalithaa that she had purchased a hotel in London through her benami TTV Dinakaran. This move by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption proved to be a blessing in disguise for Jayalalithaa, who had the court club both the London hotel case and the assets case into one. As a result the trial meandered on a further four years.
Finally DMK had to withdraw the London case after it came to power in 2009. But the story doesn’t end here. When the London case was withdrawn, the trial had come to its fag end. The process of examination and cross examination of witnesses was over and questioning of the accused had to be commenced. At this juncture, VK Sasikala, Jayalalithaa’s close aide, moved SC seeking copies of unmarked documents in the possession of prosecution.
This plea was partially accepted by the SC, and the accused were allowed to inspect the documents at their convenience. Jayalalithaa then asked for exemption to appear before the Judge citing security concerns. But, SC categorically ruled that sufficient security would be provided and directed Jaya to appear, which she complied with, though of course with great reluctance.
Then in a curious turn of events, the Special Public Prosecutor appointed by the SC in the assets case B.V.Acharya suddenly tendered his resignation. Though B.V.Acharya had submitted his resignation to the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court stating that ‘he had suffered at the hands of interested parties who wanted him to quit’, his resignation was not accepted by the then Karnataka CJ Vikramjit Sen. However, after Vikramjit Sen’s elevation to SC, his successor Justice Rao accepted the resignation immediately.
Bhavani Singh was appointed as the Special Public Prosecutor, but his appointment was challenged by DMK General Secretary Anbalagan in Supreme Court. In a curious twist, the government of Karnataka withdrew the appointment of Bhavani Singh and Jayalalithaa was quick to challenge the withdrawal. Making a strange move, Jayalalithaa made a plea that the services of the Special Judge Balakrishna should be extended beyond his superannuation on 30th September 2013.
Legal experts wondered how an accused could seek to choose her prosecutor or Judge, something unprecedented in Indian legal history. Even more strange was that the Supreme Court entertained the pleas of Jayalalithaa and ruled that Bhavani Singh should be allowed to be the Special PP. However, the retiring Special Judge Balakrishna chose not to accept the extension.
Again when it looks like the 17-year saga could be winding towards the last act; the Special Public Prosecutor Bhavani Singh suddenly claims he is ill and refuses to appear before Court in spite of warnings by the Judge. He was twice fined of his day’s fees and still he has refused to appear. Now, Bhavani Singh has moved the Karnataka High Court challenging the order of the Special Judge, fining him.
Whichever way the higher courts rule on Bhavani Singh, the fact remains Jayalalithaa’s asset case is a classic example of how trials involving the powerful get delayed willfully, and the judiciary too does nothing much to speed up the process.
While the recent Supreme Court’s recent judgment that criminal trials against politicians should be fast-tracked and completed within a year gives a ray of hope, effectively tackling corruption in the corridors of power still remains a pipe dream.
courtesy : thenewsminute