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SC transfers Jaya trial outside TN
S. S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, November 18
In a major jolt to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, the Supreme Court today ordered trial against her in a special court at Bangalore in two corruption cases pertaining to alleged acquiring of assets worth Rs 66.65 crore by her. The court said the process of justice appeared to be subverted by the state government.

The move of the apex court is being considered significant by legal experts in the wake of a petition by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for transfer of major riot cases outside Gujarat.

Allowing two writ petitions seeking transfer of the cases against Jayalalithaa outside Tamil Nadu on the ground that the trial had been adversely affected since she assumed power in March 2002, a Bench comprising Mr Justice S.N. Variava and Mr Justice H.K. Sema said: “We deem it expedient for the ends of justice to allow these petitions.”

Opposition DMK’s general secretary K. Anbazhagan and Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy had filed the petitions for transfer of the cases from a Chennai special court outside Tamil Nadu because 64 of the 76 witnesses, including senior police officers, had turned hostile when they were recalled for deposing before the court on change of the public prosecutor.

The apex court said that state of Karnataka in consultation with the Karnataka High Court’s Chief Justice “shall constitute a special court under the Prevention of Corruption Act” to hold trial in these cases at Bangalore and appoint a special judge within one month.

The previous Tamil Nadu Government, headed by M. Karunanidhi, had registered the two disproportionate assets cases against Ms Jayalalithaa and her close associate Sasikala, her estranged foster son V. Sudhakaran, Mr T. Dinakaran and Ilavarasi as other co-accused in 1997 and 2001.

Rejecting the contention of Ms Jayalalithaa’s counsel that the petitioners had raised identical issues before the Madras High Court in pending writ petitions and had suppressed this fact from the apex court, the Bench said: “It appears that the process of justice is being subverted.”

The court said the fact that the new public prosecutor appointed by the Jayalalithaa government had not raised any objection to the recalling of certain witnesses by the defence for re-examination even when their statements were recorded earlier by the court, “suggests that free and fair trial is not going on.”

While directing the Karnataka Government to provide required protection to every witness, the high court was also directed to appoint a senior lawyer with considerable experience in dealing with criminal cases as new special public prosecutor.

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