In a big relief to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, the Supreme Court on Friday ordered her release on bail in the Rs. 66.65 crores disproportionate assets case in which she was sentenced to undergo four years’ simple imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 100 crores.
A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justices Madan B. Lokur and A.K. Sikri also granted bail to the three other accused Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Ilavarasi on their furnishing two solvent sureties to the satisfaction of the special judge, Bangalore. The Bench stayed the operation of the sentence imposed by the trial court on the four accused.
The Bench, after hearing senior counsel Fali Nariman for Ms. Jayalalithaa, and senior counsel K.T.S. Tulsi for the other accused, said that the four convicts should not delay the trial and must ensure that the papers for the appeals were kept ready in two months.
The Bench posted the matter for further hearing on December 18 to give further directions to the Karnataka High Court to dispose of the appeals within three months if the papers were made ready in two months.
The CJI told Mr. Nariman that going by the past conduct of Ms. Jayalalithaa and others in dragging on the trial for 18 years, there was no possibility of the appeal being concluded even in two decades if she was granted bail. At this juncture Mr. Nariman assured the court that the appeal papers would be ready in two months and the court could ask the Karnataka High Court to dispose of the appeals within three months.
Mr. Nariman strenuously argued that “when a person is convicted and sentenced for a fix period of sentence and when he/she files a statutory appeal then the suspension of sentence ought to be considered by the Appellate Court liberally. The apex Court has held in several judgments that it would be travesty of justice to keep a person for a substantial period in jail during the pendency of an appeal for an offence which is ultimately found not to have been committed by the accused.”
He argued that “when the appellate court admits the appeal filed in challenge of the conviction and sentence for the offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act, the superior court should normally suspend the sentence of imprisonment until disposal of the appeal, and keeping the above legal principles in mind, the Special Public Prosecutor, Bhavani Singh, fairly conceded for the grant of bail with conditions by suspending the sentence. There was nothing wrong in the SPP taking a legal position and this was misconstrued by the High Court as if he was siding us.”
Mr. Nariman also argued that the court should take into consideration Ms. Jayalalithaa’s medical condition and grant her bail. She might even be confined to her house, he said. But the CJI made it clear to Mr. Nariman “this court believes in Article 21 of the Constitution (life and liberty). Either we give bail or not give bail. We cannot pass such an order confining her to the four walls.”
I am facing threat: Swamy
Appearing in person, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy argued that as the original complainant, the court should consider the conduct of the AIADMK party men indulging in violence after her detention in prison. There was caricature and cartoons criticizing the trial judge that because he was a Kannadiga he denied bail to her. I am facing threat if I go to Chennai. If only Ms. Jayalalithaa had given a statement asking her party men not to indulge in such violent activities this could have been put to an end.”
The CJI, taking note of Dr. Swamy’s submissions, made it clear to Mr. Nariman that such violent incidents should not happen and there must be a clear direction to this effect to the party men. Mr. Nariman assured that Ms. Jayalalithaa herself would issue a statement asking her party men to remain quiet.”
Important dates in Jayalalithaa’s DA case
A public interest litigation writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court on Thursday for a direction to the Karnataka government to shift Jayalalithaa from the Central Prison at Parappana Agrahara in Bangalore to the Central Prison, Chennai. (Read full story)
October 17, 2014: Jayalalithaa’s petition will be argued by counsel and senior advocate Fali S. Nariman, while senior advocate Sushil Kumar will appear for co-accused Sasikala and senior advocate K.T.S. Tulsi will represent V. Sudhakaran and J. Elavarasi. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has impleaded himself in the bail petition as an original complainant in the assets case. (Read full story)
October 13, 2014: A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu, agreed to an urgent plea made by Jayalalithaa’s counsel and senior advocate Fali S. Nariman for an early hearing of her petition. The bench held a brief consultation, after which the Chief Justice posted the case for hearing to October 17. (Read full story)
October 9, 2014: thirteen days after entering the Parappana Agrahara prison in Bangalore, Jayalalithaa moved the Supreme Court challenging the Karnataka High Court order. (Read full story)
October 7, 2014: The Karnataka High Court refused to release her on bail and rejected her plea for suspending the four-year prison sentence imposed by the trial court on September 27 in the disproportionate assets case. (Read full story)
Celebrities and their lawyers need to guard against excesses. When imprisoned, celebrities need to persuade their fans not to turn fanatic; any breakdown in law and order would only further postpone the bail hearing (Read: Dangers of imperious impatience)
Though AIADMK activists harboured a ray of hope on their leader’s possible release after their lawyers’ wing managed to get the vacation bench to hear Ms. Jayalalithaa’s bail petition, they were disappointed as the case was adjourned shortly after it was taken up for hearing by the judge. (Read full story)
October 1, 2014: Hearing on the bail application of Jayalalithaa was put off to October 7 by the Karnataka High Court, leading to a brief protest by a group of advocates outside the court hall on Wednesday. Vacation judge Justice Rathnakala adjourned the hearing, saying that in her considered view, the appeals should be heard by a regular bench. (Read full story)
September 29, 2014: O. Panneerselvam, staunch loyalist of Jayalalithaa, was sworn in as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for second time by Governor K. Rosaiah, followed by the induction of other Ministers. The ceremony was emotionally charged with virtually every member of the new Cabinet breaking down. (Read full story)
Click here for the copy of the Special Court’s judgment pertaining to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in the disproportionate assets case.
The conviction of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in the disproportionate assets case by a Special Court in Bangalore is a significant vindication of a vital constitutional principle — that the rule of law be upheld for all citizens including persons in high public office. (Editorial: The long road to justice)
September 27, 2014: AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa was sentenced to four years’ simple imprisonment and a Rs. 100-crore fine was imposed on her for offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The three co-accused — Sasikala Natarajan, V. Sudhakaran and J. Elavarasi — were sentenced to four years’ imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 10 crore each. (Jayalalithaa bail plea hearing: As it happened)