N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras
In an order that has shocked the ruling All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court has stayed the daily hearings in the Madras high court of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's appeal against her conviction in the TANSI corruption case.
Party officials were at a loss for words when news agencies and television channels slipped in a report of the Supreme Court's order in the midst of news of Tamil Maanila Congress founder G K Moopanar's death.
The order has the effect of stalling the daily proceedings before Justice R Balasubramanian of the Madras high court.
Justice Balasubramanian had gone ahead with the arguments of Jayalalithaa's lawyers, overruling the reservations of the court-appointed special public prosecutor, K A Venkatapathy, who wanted more time to study the voluminous records of the trial court.
The fast-track hearing in the high court was seen as an attempt to render infructuous the petitions pending before the Supreme Court challenging Jayalalithaa's assumption of office despite her conviction and disqualification from contesting elections. The Supreme Court is due to start hearing those petitions next week.
Only if the high court quashes the trial court's conviction will Jayalalithaa be able to contest a by-election to the state assembly. She has to get elected within six months of assuming office as chief minister to be able to continue in that post. The grace period expires on November 13.
The Supreme Court's stay came on a day when the Centre named Justice A P Narayana Kurup, the most senior puisne judge at the Madras high court, as chief justice. It also coincided with the formal send-off given by the bench and the bar to controversial Chief Justice N K Jain, who has been transferred to the Karnataka high court.
Justice Jain, heading a division bench, had ordered that all of Jayalalithaa's appeals against her convictions in different corruption cases be bunched together. Hearing of these appeals began on Monday.
On Tuesday, Justice P Shanmugam of the Madras high court had, while dismissing a petition seeking to restrain Justice Jain from discharging the functions of chief justice, questioned the propriety of the judge continuing in office even after his transfer. "That is the closest a high court has gone thus far in independent India to passing strictures against its own chief justice," a senior advocate pointed out.
Advocates in Madras are also upset with Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee seeking a transfer of the TANSI case appeals to another high court in the country.
"The very fact that an attorney-general as civil as Sorabjee should feel compelled to seek such a transfer should be a cause for concern to the legal community in the state," the advocate quoted above said.
TANSI case hearing posted for August 27
Jaya's appeals not taken up for hearing
Hearing on Jaya's appeal in TANSI case delayed
Orders reserved on Jaya's petition in TANSI case
Jaya's appeal admitted in TANSI case
Jaya appeals against TANSI convictions
3 years' RI for Jaya in TANSI case
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