In a relief to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, the Supreme Court on Monday set aside the Karnataka government's decision to remove Special Public Prosecutor G Bhawani Singh from the disproportionate assets case against her.
Terming the decision as "malafide", a bench of justices B S Chauhan and S A Bobde also asked the Karnataka high court and the state government to consider extending tenure of the special trial judge as per the law.
"The extension can be given as per the law and in consultation with the high court," the bench said, adding the trial court's record runs into nearly 33,000 pages and the recording of statements of witnesses has also completed.
The apex court, on September 25, had reserved its verdict on the issue of appointment and sacking of SPP Singh in the case and also on the AIADMK chief's plea for extension of the tenure of the trial judge who is scheduled to retire on Monday.
Earlier during the proceedings, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam General Secretary K Anbalagan had opposed Jayalalithaa's plea, saying that she and other accused were allegedly responsible for the protracted trial in the 17-year-old case.
Attorney General G E Vahanvati, appearing for Karnataka government, had also opposed the plea of Jayalalithaa on the SPP and for extension of the tenure of the special judge till the completion of the trial.
The bench had deliberated on the political overtones on the issue of the appointment and sacking Singh as the SPP.
"Was there (in Karnataka) the same government? When did the government change," the bench had asked.
The Attorney General had said the new government came on May 8 this year but the appointment of Singh was done without any consultation between the state government and the chief justice of the Karnataka high court.
The bench, which had perused the records, had noted Singh, who has been sacked as SPP in the case, was appointed without any objection by Karnataka government to conduct the trial in the 17-year-old case. (More) SJK SKV
The court had on September 20 called for the entire record relating to the controversy surrounding the appointment and sacking of Singh for its perusal to ascertain the reasons for dropping him from conducting the proceedings.
Jayalalithaa's counsel had alleged that removal of Singh came at a time when the criminal procedure in the case was at the final stage and was done with a political motive.
Bhawani Singh was appointed as the SPP following the resignation of former Advocate General B V Acharya, who was the prosecutor in the case from February 2005 to August 2012.
Karnataka government had on August 26 issued the notification withdrawing the appointment of Singh as SPP.
The AIADMK chief is accused of amassing Rs 66.65 crore between 1991 and 1996 when she was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
The case was transferred by the apex court from Chennai to Bangalore in 2003 during her earlier tenure as the Chief Minister for a free and fair trial.
Jayalalithaa had alleged the case was slapped on her by the previous DMK government for political reasons.
Jayalalithaa and three other accused Sasikala, Ilavarasi and V N Sudhakaran have also sought a direction to restrain Karnataka government from appointing a new judge for conducting the trial against them in a Bangalore court.
During the hearing on September 13, the apex court had objected to Karnataka government's notification "misrepresenting" an undertaking given by it as an order of the apex court on the appointment of SPP.
The bench had on August 30 restrained Karnataka government from appointing new SPP in the case. The order was passed on a plea by Jayalalithaa challenging the removal of Bhawani Singh as SPP.