Terming the questions arising from the swearing-in of All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary J Jayalalithaa as chief minister of Tamil Nadu despite her conviction in the TANSI corruption case as "constitutionally important", a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court admitted on Friday a bunch of petitions raising this issue and referred them to a larger bench.
The court, which had on June 4 issued notices to Jayalalithaa and others on this issue, said the petitions pose "constitutionally important questions, namely, whether a person who has been convicted of a criminal offence, which has not been suspended, can be sworn in as chief minister".
But the bench comprising Justice S P Bharucha, Justice Y K Sabharwal and Justice Brijesh Kumar dismissed an application filed by DMK general secretary K Anbazhagan seeking to be impleaded in the matter.
"We are not converting the matter as a publicity or political affair," Justice Bharucha observed when the DMK's counsel contended that the party wanted to assist the court in the case.
The bench added, "We are not entertaining any more petitions. We have enough."
Referring the matter to a constitution bench, the court directed that it be listed for hearing in the week beginning September 3.
The court allowed Jayalalithaa four more weeks to file her counter.
The petitions which have been admitted were filed by B R Kapur, Dhananjayan Chauhan, Pratap Singh Chautala and B L Wadhera.
The court dismissed the petition filed by Manoharlal Sharma as he was not present at Friday's hearing.
Attorney General Soli Sorabjee, who was requested by the court on June 4 to render assistance in the matter, said the questions posed by the petitions were important and needed to be dealt with expeditiously.
Arguing for petitioner Chautala, brother of Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, senior advocate Anil Dewan had submitted that the appointment of Jayalalithaa, whose conviction had not been stayed by the Madras high court, had opened a new chapter in the country's political history.
Terming former governor Fathima Beevi's decision "wholly unconstitutional, arbitrary and subversive of the rule of law forming the basic structure of the Constitution", Dewan had said it would encourage corruption and empower a "convicted person to occupy the chief minister's office".
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