Jaya’s Best Laid Plans Go For A Toss

by Sandhya Ravishankar - Apr 15, 2015 07:21 PM
Jaya’s Best Laid Plans Go For A Toss

Supreme Court throws a spanner in the appeals process in Jayalalithaa’s disproportionate assets case

The AIADMK is a worried lot. Especially after the Supreme Court on Wednesday announced a split verdict in a case filed by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK) General Secretary Anbazhagan seeking removal of the Special Public Prosecutor Bhavani Singh in Jayalalithaa’s disproportionate assets case, currently on appeal in the Karnataka High Court.

In the verdict by the two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, Justice Madan Lokur said that SPP Bhavani Singh must be removed as SPP since the “proceedings had been vitiated” in the case currently awaiting orders in the Karnataka High Court. Justice Bhanumathi however averred, opining that Singh could continue as prosecutor in the case. The split verdict now means that the case will be re-tried in front of a higher three-judge bench of the Supreme Court. As for Jaya’s appeal in the Karnataka High Court, the SC bench left it to the presiding judge, Justice Kumaraswamy to decide whether to pronounce orders or not.

Jurists say that it makes sense for the Karnataka High Court judge to wait for resolution of the Singh trial before pronouncing orders. If the new bench of the Supreme Court decides to remove Bhavani Singh as prosecutor, Jaya’s appeal would have to be heard all over again with a new public prosecutor, a process that could drag on by another four months at least. If Bhavani Singh is allowed to continue as Special Public Prosecutor, the Karnataka High Court simply has to deliver its verdict.

“There will be a delay of a month or two,” says Gnani Sankaran, political critic. “Unless of course the Karnataka HC judge decides to pass orders earlier.”

What is worrying the AIADMK cadre is the aspect of further delay in a logical conclusion of Jayalalithaa’s case. “Only Amma can draw crowds, people vote only for Amma,” says a nervous AIADMK district leader on condition of anonymity. “We simply cannot campaign without her. The opposition parties have already begun canvassing for 2016 elections,” he adds.

Jayalalithaa has been closeted inside her Poes Garden residence since October 2014 when she was granted bail on health grounds by the Supreme Court, following her conviction in a Rs 58 crore disproportionate assets case in a Karnataka trial court. The proceedings took 18 long years and the verdict was guilty, with a four year prison term and a fine of Rs 100 crores. After spending 21 days in jail, Jaya was granted bail and has been inside her residence ever since.

“She is the only campaigner in the party,” explains Sankaran. “She is the only face of the party. There is no one else. The AIADMK is Jayalalithaa and Jayalalithaa is the AIADMK.”

As Tamil Nadu heads into a crucial state election in 2016, a much weakened Opposition is now gearing up to make noise. Campaigning has already begun and one of the parties, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) has already announced its Chief Ministerial candidate for 2016. The AIADMK on the other hand, has been reduced to conducting poojas and prayers at temples, mosques and churches for the release of their leader Amma.

Outwardly though the AIADMK is playing it cool. “I have been meeting hundreds of workers from the morning and they are all confident that Amma will come out victorious,” says Rabi Bernard, AIADMK MP and a spokesperson. “This may be a temporary hindrance and everything will be alright. As far as the party’s mood is concerned this does not come as a bottleneck or roadblock for day to day activities. We were hoping everything would happen very soon but it is now only a matter of time,” he says.

Senior leaders of the AIADMK though say that the original plan was to push for as speedy a trial as possible and try to get Jaya back in the Chief Minister’s seat before the 2016 election. “We took the worst case scenario and wanted the appeal in Karnataka High Court to be done by April-May this year. Again in a worst case scenario, if the judgement goes against us, we would have had to move Supreme Court. We calculated that this would take another four months at the most, so by September 2015 she would have been exonerated and back in the Chief Minister’s seat,” said one leader on condition of anonymity.

Now the Supreme Court has slammed the brakes on that plan. And the wait for their Amma continues for the AIADMK cadre.

Sandhya Ravishankar is a journalist based in Chennai.
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