Larger bench of SC to hear DMK leader's plea

New Delhi


DMK leader K. Anbazhagan's plea in the Supreme Court challenging the Tamil Nadu government's appointment of G. Bhavani Singh as special public prosecutor in the hearing of former chief minister Jayalalithaa's appeal against her conviction in a disproportionate assets case will now be heard by a larger bench.

The apex court bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice R. Banumathi said the matter would be heard by a larger bench.

Justice Lokur said the appointment of Bhavani Singh vitiated the hearing of the appeal before the Karnataka High Court while Justice Banumathi found no infirmity in continuing Bhawani Singh as special public prosecutor as he was appointed for the case and his appointment was not revoked by the Karnataka government.

"I hold that Bhavani Singh appointed as Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) under Section 24(8) CrPC, by virtue of Section 301(1) CrPC, has authority to continue to appear as public prosecutor in the criminal appeals filed by the accused in the high court of Karnataka and the order of the high court is confirmed and the appeal (by Anbazhagan) is dismissed," said Justice Banumathi in her dissenting judgment.

Answering in negative the question whether Bhavani Singh was entitled to represent the prosecution in the appeals filed in the Karnataka High Court by the accused people against their conviction, Justice Lokur said "the hearing of the appeals in the high court stands vitiated, since the prosecution was not represented by an authorised person".

Taking a strong view of the manner in which Jayalalithaa's assets case dragged on for 15 years, Justice Lokur said: "It needs to be mentioned that this case is a classic illustration of what is wrong with our criminal justice delivery system."

If the allegations by ADMK leader Anbazhagan are true that "accused people 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, Justice Lokur said: "If the allegations made by him (Anbazhagan) 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. Something drastic needs to be done to remedy the system, if not completely overhaul it, and as this case graphically illustrates, the time starts now," said Justice Lokur pointing to the need for a relook at the criminal justice system.

Justice Banumathi, in her separate judgment, hauled up the Karnataka government for "rhyming about their inability to appoint a new prosecutor/counsel to conduct the appeal proceedings".

If the Karnataka government was of the view that Bhavani Singh could not continue to appear before the high court hearing Jayalalithaa and others appeal, it could have in consultation with the chief justice of the high court issued the notification appointing another special public prosecutor or it could have sought direction from this court," said Justice Banumathi.

"But that was not to be so. State of Karnataka did not take any initiative to actively resolve the dispute so that the appeal could have been disposed of within the outer limits of three months from the order dated 18.12.2014," said Justice Banumathi.

"Once the case was transferred under Section 406 CrPC to the state of Karnataka, it stepped into the shoes of state of Tamil Nadu and has the obligation to prosecute all the accused diligently by ensuring the fair and smooth proceedings of the case and as the transferee state, the state of Karnataka was conscious about its obligations," Justice Banumathi said.

However, Karnataka in its "inactive attitude did not take any step to terminate Bhavani Singh's service and thereby appoint a new incumbent to conduct the case in appeal", said Justice Banumathi. - IANS