New Delhi, Sep 25: The Supreme Court Wednesday reserved its order on Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa’s plea seeking to bring back a Karnataka prosecutor and retaining after retirement a judge hearing an illegal assets case against her.
The trial court judge hearing the case is due to retire Sep 30 while Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Bhavani Singh was recently removed from the case by the Karnataka government.
The Tamil Nadu chief minister contended that removal of Bhavani Singh and not giving extension to the trial court judge would further delay the proceedings in the case that is pending for last 18 years.
The apex court bench of Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice S.A. Bobde reserved the order as her senior counsel Shekhar Naphade told the court that under Article 21 of the constitution Jayalalithaa had a right to speedy justice which would be frustrated if the presiding judge was not given an extension upon his retirement.
Naphade said if the trial judge was not given an extension, then the new SPP and judge would require a lot of time to peruse the evidence running into 34,000 pages which would further delay the 18-year-old case, which is now nearing conclusion.
Naphade assailed the attempts by senior counsel Vikas Singh, appearing for DMK general secretary K. Anbazhagan, casting aspersions over the presiding judge.
“They can move the higher court saying that the trial court judge is guilty of misdemeanour of misconduct” but no insinuation could be made against him, he said.
Unless upset by the higher court, the verdict of the trial court remains final, he said contesting Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati’s submission that a retiring judge could not be given extension.
Jayalalithaa’s counsel said that service conditions of judiciary were in line with the service conditions of civil servants and under the rule any retiring person could be offered re-employment.
Anbazhagan’s counsel assailed the manner in which SPP Bhavani Singh conducted the prosecution’s case in the trial court. Not only the investigating officer was allowed to become the defence witness but he also chose not to cross-examine him.
The case is based on a petition filed by Anbazhagan.
The case relates to the period when she was chief minister 1991-1996 and involves an amont Rs.66 crore disproportionate to her known sources of income. The trial in the case was shifted outside Chennai by the apex court in 2003 to ensure a free and fair trial