With AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha deciding to move the Supreme Court, challenging the Madras High Court verdict in the 'disqualification case', all eyes are now riveted on New Delhi.
Jayalalitha's lawyers are said to be in the capital, working out modalities, without having to wait until after the weekend, starting with Good Friday.
Though at the end of the day's verdict on Thursday, Jayalalitha's lawyers had sought a sitting for a clarification from Justice Malai Subramaniam, to discuss the verdict, Jayalalitha's counsel did not press the issue finally. Instead, the counsel submitted that they had only sought copies of the verdict, and no clarification. Enraged by the about-turn in Jayalalitha's counsel's new-found argument, Subramaniam came down heavily, for wasting the court's time, and threatening them with contempt of court proceedings.
He also referred to the national media that had rushed to the court in the morning, based on the submission from Jayalalitha's counsel a day earlier.
Indications are that Jayalalitha's lawyers have given up on the high court verdict, thus planning to file a special leave petition in the Supreme Court. Any clarification from the high court would have not only sent out a 'clear message' to voters and AIADMK cadres, but also delayed till Monday, the plan to file an SLP in the apex court.
For its part, the Tamil Nadu Government is believed to have filed a caveat in the Supreme Court, seeking to be informed and impleaded while hearing any petition from Jayalalitha, flowing from Subramaniam's order. This means that the Supreme Court would hear the state government's counsel before passing any orders on any possible petition from Jayalalitha.
By deciding to move the apex court, the Jayalalitha camp now hopes to keep the 'disqualification issue' alive until after the auspicious Tamil New Year Day, on Saturday, without demoralising party cadres and sympathisers further, on the very eve of the nomination-filing process which opens on Monday.
The decision of the Jayalalitha camp to appeal against the high court verdict, and not press the demand for a clarification from Subramaniam implies that her counsel have conceded defeat for the AIADMK supremo, at least until the apex court decides on the issue.
The high court has not only refused to interfere with the electoral process, which is the constitutional prerogative of the Election Commission,
by directing Jayalalitha's eligibility to contest the polls, but has also declined to suspend the trial court's conviction against her in the Tansi land deal cases.
Section 8 (3) of the Representation of People's Act declares that a person 'convicted and sentenced' to two years rigorous imprisonment under the Prevention of Corruption Act will be 'disqualified' from contesting elections.
By declining to suspend the conviction against Jayalalitha, citing the Supreme Court bar on effecting the same in cases pertaining to the Prevention of Corruption Act, Subramaniam may not have offered her any relief. Thus, his advisory observations that suspension of conviction would
automatically follow the suspension of sentence -which has been granted - would not apply to Jayalalitha's case.
Otherwise, the ball is now in the Election Commission's court, whose representative, the returning officer would be - that too, if and when the Supreme Court passed favourable orders for Jayalalitha to file her nominations.
It is not just the possibility of Jayalalitha's nomination being dismissed at the scrutiny stage that now looms large, but even the fact of the her filing nominations that has been threatened.
This is because an Election Commission circular now enjoins upon the returning officers to obtain a declaration from intending candidates that they had not been convicted under any 'disqualification clauses' of the RP Act. Failure to enclose the declaration would entail non-acceptance of the nomination forms at the very outset, with the returning officer having to wait for the day of scrutiny after the last date for filing nominations.
With Jayalalitha's electoral future now hanging in balance, allies of the AIADMK are now watching the next move of Jayalalitha very closely. They do not want to comment on the issue until after the Supreme Court had disposed of her possible appeal against the high court order.
Indications are that opinion may be divided on promoting an alternative chief ministerial candidate in Jayalalitha's place, with the AIADMK's reservations to promote TMC founder G K Moopanar. Against this, the Congress-TMC combine too is unwilling to accept the company of PMK founder S Ramadoss, whom the AIADMK would like to promote to the limited extent of not wanting to pass on the emerging political vacuum to a 'nationalist party', if it could help it.
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