The Supreme Court will on Friday hear a special leave petition filed by three-time former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa challenging the Karnataka High Court order refusing to suspend the execution of her sentence and grant of bail in a disproportionate assets case.
A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu agreed to an urgent plea made by Ms. Jayalalithaa's counsel and senior advocate Fali S. Nariman for an early hearing of her petition.
“My Lords, this is an urgent matter on suspension of sentence,” Mr. Nariman submitted.
The bench held a brief consultation, after which the Chief Justice posted the case for hearing to October 17.
Senior advocate Sushil Kumar also sought a hearing on suspension of sentence of the other three co-accused in the case to Friday, The court granted his plea.
Ms. Jayalalithaa, who was Tamil Nadu Chief Minister at the time of her conviction, was sentenced to four years’ simple imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of Rs. 100-crore for offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Her co-accused — Sasikala Natarajan, V. Sudhakaran and J. Elavarasi — were sentenced to four years’ imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 10 crore each.
Ms. Jayalalithaa seeks relief from incarceration on the grounds that she is a woman, 66-years-old and suffers from ailments.
The petition contended that the Karnataka High Court would take the next four years to finally decide her pending appeal, during which she would have to suffer in prison. One of the main grounds of the petition is that once an appeal against conviction is admitted by an appellate court, granting of bail and suspension of sentence follows naturally, otherwise it renders the appeal irrelevant.
It said that she has been sentenced to a term of 'simple' and not 'rigorous' imprisonment, and in such cases grant of bail is the norm. The petition argued that bail is the rule and this relief can only be denied in exceptional circumstances, of which there is none in the present case.
The High Court had termed corruption as a violation of human rights quoting the 2012 Supreme Court judgment in State of Maharashtra through CBI versus Balakrishna Dattatrya Kumbhar.
However, Ms. Jayalalithaa's lawyers are likely to plead that this verdict quoted by the Karnataka High Court was delivered in a matter seeking stay on conviction. In the current matter, only suspension of execution of sentence is sought.
The petition has challenged the October 8 order of the Karnataka High Court, which had dismissed Ms. Jayalalithaa's contentions that she should be granted bail on the ground that the accused has no past record of misusing her liberty to hamper proceedings in the case.
Rejecting arguments by Mr. Jethmalani that Ms. Jayalalithaa is “entitled” for bail, the high court had observed that suspension of sentence and bail prescribed under Section 389 Cr.PC rests entirely on the discretion of the Appellate Court. (Source: The Hindu)