SC stays inquiry commission proceedings into Jayalalithaa’s death at Apollo Hospitals

The Supreme Court Friday stayed the proceedings of an inquiry commission set up to probe the death of then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa at Apollo Hospitals in Chennai in 2016.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was hearing the appeal of Apollo Hospitals against the April 4 order of the Madras High Court rejecting its objection against the ongoing inquiry into the death of the AIADMK leader at the hospital.

“Notice. Stay of further proceedings of the inquiry commission,” the bench, which also comprised Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, said.

The AIADMK-led state government had set up the inquiry commission to look into circumstances leading to the death of Jayalalithaa on December 5, 2016 at Apollo Hospitals.

The Madras High Court had on April 4 rejected Apollo Hospital’s objections to an inquiry commission set up to probe the death of Jayalalithaa looking into aspects of treatment given to her.

As mandated by its terms of reference, the Justice A Arumughaswamy Commission of Inquiry was empowered and entitled to go into the appropriateness, efficacy, adequacy or inadequacy of the treatment given to Jayalalithaa during her 75-day hospitalisation in 2016, it said.

The high court had refused to stall proceedings of the commission and disposed of the petition filed by the hospital seeking to quash the government orders which laid down terms and reference of the probe panel.

It had also rejected the prayer of the hospital for setting up a medical board to assist the panel during the inquiry.

The high court had said if a harmonious interpretation was made to terms of reference, the government was careful enough to include the word “subsequent treatment provided till her unfortunate demise on December 5, 2016”.

This meant the nature and extent of treatment given by Apollo Hospitals, which includes appropriateness, adequacy or inadequacy of the treatment, the court had said.

“We are of the view that if the commission is restrained from going into the correctness, efficacy, adequacy or inadequacy of the medical treatment provided by the petitioner hospital, it would only defeat the very object with which the government had appointed the commission of inquiry,” it had said.

Therefore, the panel can go into the correctness, efficacy, adequacy or inadequacy of the medical treatment provided by Apollo Hospitals by screening the records produced before it and arrive at a conclusion, the bench had said.

It had disagreed with the hospital’s contention that a retired judge of the high court (Arumughaswamy) cannot be the competent person to deal with the complex and intricate medical treatment and hence experts and professionals should be included in the panel.

It had said that even in the absence of inclusion of experts or professionals, as per Section 5B of Commission of Inquiry Act, the commission can independently take the aid of any person who, in its opinion, shall be of assistance for conducting the inquiry.

Referring to the hospital’s charge that its doctors were repeatedly questioned and harassed, the high court had said it was not inclined to accept the submissions that witnesses (doctors) were wantonly, willfully and deliberately harassed by the commission.

The government had set up the inquiry commission to look into circumstances leading to the death of the AIADMK supremo, citing doubts expressed by various people.

Supreme Court notice to Jaya on appeal against her acquittal in DA case

Supreme Court notice to Jaya on appeal against her acquittal in DA case
Supreme Court notice to Jaya on appeal against her acquittal in DA case

The Supreme Court today sought response from Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and three others on appeals filed against Karnataka High Court order acquitting them in a disproportionate assets case.

A bench comprising justices P C Ghose and R K Agrawal also issued notices to Jayalalithaa’s close aide Sasikala and two of her relatives, V N Sudhakaran and Elavarasi, and asked them to file their replies within eight weeks.

The Karnataka HC order had on May 11 ruled that the AIADMK supremo’s conviction by the special court suffered from infirmity and was not sustainable in law, clearing the decks for her return as the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister.

Karnataka government had, in its appeal against the May 11 verdict, taken the ground that the state government’s prosecuting agency was not made a party before the High court.

The petition, filed through advocate Joseph Aristotle, had also claimed that the High Court erred in computing the disproportionate assets of the AIADMK leader.

The state government in the petition had asked as to whether the High Court had “erred in law” by according the benefit of doubt to Jayalalithaa in pursuance of a Supreme Court judgment holding that an accused can be acquitted if his or her disproportionate assets was to the extent of ten per cent.

It also claimed that the High Court has erred in law in over-ruling the preliminary objections raised by the state government and added that the accused had filed their appeals against conviction without impleading Karnataka as a party.

The special court had last year held Jayalalithaa guilty of corruption and sentenced her to four years imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 100 crore.

K’taka govt moves SC against Jaya’s acquittal in DA case

K'taka govt moves SC against Jaya's acquittal in DA case
K’taka govt moves SC against Jaya’s acquittal in DA case

The Karnataka government today moved the Supreme Court challenging the state high court verdict acquitting Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in the disproportionate assets case.

The state government in its appeal, filed through advocate Joseph Aristotle, has sought setting aside of the Karnataka HC order and also pleaded that the disqualification of the AIADMK chief be restored.

It has also alleged that it did not get ample opportunity to put forth its case before the high court.

The Karnataka High Court had on May 11 acquitted the AIADMK leader in the case, saying that her conviction by the special court suffered from infirmity and was not sustainable in law.

The special court had last year held Jayalalithaa guilty of corruption and sentenced her to four years imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 100 crore.

Jayalalithaa to face trial for not filing IT return: SC

aaIn a setback to Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa, the Supreme Court on Thursday said she will face trial for not filing income tax return for three years in her capacity as a partner of Shashi Enterprises which she jointly owned with her aide Sasikala.

The apex court bench headed by Justice KS Radhakrishnan directed the trial court to complete the trial within a period of four months.

Jayalalithaa along with Sasikala had set up Sashi Enterprises wherein neither the enterprise nor its both partners filed their income tax return for year 1991-92, 1992-93 and 1993-94.

Jayalalithaa had contended that since there was no income from the enterprise, therefore there was no tax evasion and not filing the income tax return was not an offence.

However, economic offences court in Chennai rejected their contention, holding that non-filing of ITR was an offence and they will face trial.

On appeal, the high court accepted the findings of the economic offences court and both Jayalalithaa and Sasikala will face trial.

Supreme Court on Thursday declined to interfere with the high court order.

(Source: IANS)

Karnataka stopped from naming new prosecutor in Jayalalithaa case

jayalalitaThe Supreme Court on Friday restrained the Karnataka government from appointing a new special public prosecutor in the disproportionate assets case against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa being heard by a trial court in Bangalore.

A bench of Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice S.A. Bobde directed the listing of the matter for Sep 4.

The court issued notice to the Karnataka government on the plea by Jayalalithaa and three others – Sasikala, Ilavarasi and V.N. Sudhakaran – challenging the removal of Bhavani Singh, the current special public prosecutor.

Addressing the court, senior counsel U.U. Lalit said that Bhavani Singh was taken off the case as he was in the third day of his final arguments which had seen the examination of 99 defence witnesses in a span of five months from February to July 2013.

The court was told that the petitioner has already responded to about 2,000 queries by the prosecution.

The petition moved by Jayalalithaa and three others said that the removal of Bhavani Singh as prosecutor by the state government would seriously prejudice their case as they have already brought out holes in the prosecution case, alleging disproportionate assets against Tamil Nadu chief minister.

Lalit told the court that the change at this stage would further delay by another four to five months the case, which is already dragging on for nearly a decade.

He noted that even the trial court judge was retiring on Sep 30.

Jayalalithaa has alleged that the abrupt change of Bhavani Singh has been done by the state’s ruling Congress at the behest of DMK, her political rival in Tamil Nadu.

As Lalit opposed the change at the fag end of the trial, Justice Chauhan told him the about court’s not-so-pleasant experience in the case involving challenge to the appointment of Gujarat Lokayukta Justice (retd) R.A. Mehta.

“After upholding the appointment of Justice Mehtas as Lokayukta, we dealt with review and later curative petition by the Gujarat government.”

“Having repeatedly reaffirmed our order on the appointment of Justice Mehta as Lokayukta, the latter subsequently declined to accept the office as he had faced enough.”

“This has made us wiser from that experience. But we are all experienced but by the time we get experienced, we are about to retire,” observed Justice Chauhan as Lalit said: “People don’t want to get into controversies.”

The Tamil Nadu chief minister is facing trial in the corruption case that relates to the period when she was chief minister in 1991 to 1996. The trial in the case was shifted outside Chennai by the apex court in 2003 to ensure a free and fair trial.

(Source: IANS)

Scheduled Castes of all religions should enjoy benefits: Jayalalithaa

jayalalitaTamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Friday urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to bring in necessary laws to include all Scheduled Castes (SC), regardless of their religion, under the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950.
In a letter to Manmohan Singh, the text of which was released to the media here, Jayalalithaa said: “The social tensions over the unbalanced growth between the Hindu Scheduled Castes and the Christian converts have only aggravated over time, and the sense of alienation amongst the minority communities has further deepened.”

She said the matter cannot be delayed further and SC Christians should be treated on par with Hindus, Sikhs or Buddhists, and should be included in the list of Scheduled Castes annexed to the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950.

 “To enable this, as recommended by the Ranganath Misra Commission, para 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, must be deleted,” she said.

She said necessary legislation should be brought during the current session of Parliament.

“The position of Scheduled Castes persons belonging to the minority religions is very similar to Scheduled Castes persons professing Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism. Yet, they are being unfairly kept out of the purview of the constitutional scheme of protection and reservation envisaged by the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950,” Jayalalithaa said.

According to her, a sizeable population of SC Christians has been “excluded and remains outside the purview of all the centrally assisted welfare and ameliorative measures and, most importantly, is excluded from the benefit of reservation in educational institutions and employment in public services for the Scheduled Castes.”
(Source: IANS )

SC permits Sasikala to inspect documents in DA case

The Supreme Court today permitted Sasikala Natrajan, a close aide of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, to inspect certain documents filed by the probe agency in the disproportionate assets case pending against them before a Bangalore trial court.

A bench of justices P Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi while allowing Sasikala’s plea said that the same shall be completed within 21 days and the special court trying the offence would determine the venue.

The Apex Court, however, clarified that today’s order would not affect, in any manner, any part of the ongoing trial or examination of the witnesses that has taken place so far.

The court had on September 5 reserved its order after hearing arguments by Sasikala’s counsel on her appeal against the Karnataka High Court ruling, which had concurred with the trial court order that she was not entitled to the documents which were not part of the charge sheet.

Earlier on June 25, the apex court had refused to stay the trial but had allowed her to place on record the relevant material relating to her claim that she was not provided with certain documents relating to the questions put to her in the ongoing day-to-day trial.

Jaya and others are accused of amassing disproportionate wealth during her tenure as chief minister in 1991-96.

On November 4 last year, the apex court had dismissed Jayalalithaa’s plea for exemption from personal appearance before the trial court in Bangalore.

The disproportionate assets (DA) case allegedly involves accumulation of assets worth over Rs 66 crore by Jayalalithaa between 1991 and 1996.

The DA case proceedings were shifted out of Tamil Nadu by the apex court in November 2003 following a petition filed by DMK leader K Anbazhagan when AIADMK was in power.

Jayalalithaa had said that the jewellery, silverware and footwear were “over valued” by Tamil Nadu’s Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption and that she did not own all the sarees confiscated in the case.

Jaya moves SC against Centre on Kachatheevu Island

Alleging continued killing and harassment of Indian fishermen by Sri Lankan Navy, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa today urged the Supreme Court to expeditiously hear its petition challenging the Centre’s 1974 decision to cede Kachatheevu Island to the island nation.

“It is therefore just and necessary that the instant writ petition is heard at an early date. Grave prejudice and irreparable loss and hardship would continue to be caused to the fisher folk of Tamil Nadu whose lives and liberty to carry on their occupation are in danger with every passing day,” she said in her application through counsel Srikala Gurukrishna Kumar.

Under an agreement reached on June 26, 1974, between the two countries, India agreed to cede its rights on Kachatheevu Island to Sri Lanka. By another agreement, India also agreed to cede its fishing rights in the island area.

On January 5, 2009, the apex court had issued notice to the Centre on Jayalalithaa’s petition challenging the two agreements “as unconstitutional and non-est” and had sought a direction to ensure all measures to protect the life and livelihood of the Indian fishermen carrying on fishing activity around Kachatheevu.

In its fresh application, the state government said a large number of fishermen from Tamil Nadu had been killed or caught by the Lankan Navy while they were fishing in the area.

Jayalalithaa claimed that she had also written as many as 11 letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the AIADMK assumed power in May 2011.

Kachatheevu was a small barren uninhabited island of an extent of 285 acres in the Palk Strait off Rameswaram, a part of Ramanathapuram district, before it was ceded, Jayalalithaa said and complained that the Centre did not consult the State before ceding it to Sri Lanka.

Delhi High Court refused to meddle in Kachchativu

By Brij Khandelwal,

A long time ago, I had moved the Delhi High Court challenging the Indian government’s decision to give away the Kachchativu island to Sri Lanka.

When the transfer happened, in 1974, I was aghast.

I am not a Tamil, I do not live in Tamil Nadu either; but as an Indian I was shocked that India had chosen to surrender a chunk of its territory to another country.

That too land which a section of Indians (read Tamils) did not want to be given away.

I also knew that the government of Indira Gandhi had not got the decision ratified by parliament.

I moved a civil writ petition in the Delhi High Court that very year. The judges were T. Tatachari and M. Ansari. The case came to be known as “Brij Khandelwal vs Union Of India”.

I prayed that the court issue a writ of prohibition and/or any other appropriate order preventing New Delhi from ceding Kachchativu to Colombo.

Another petition was filed by Shyama Charan Gupta praying that the Indian government be stopped from giving away Kachchativu and, if this had already been done, to take back the island.

He also wanted the court to declare that the government and parliament have no powers to cede any part of India.

It was in June 1974 that India gave up the sovereignty over the 280 acres of the Kachchativu island in the Palk Strait, a narrow strip of sea dividing India and Sri Lanka.

Although the Island was uninhabited, fishermen from India used to go there to fish and to dry their nets. It was marine rich — and remains so today.

Many Indians also visited the island to pray at the church of St. Anthony.

Notices were issued to the central government asking why our petitions should not be admitted.

The government argued we had no right, constitutional or statutory or otherwise, to file the writ petition; no right of ours was threatened; and that we petitioners had no locus standi.

In any event, in view of the Emergency declared Dec 3, 1971 (in view of the India-Pakistan war), the agreement could not be challenged by invoking article 19 of the constitution.

The government also said there was no question of cession of Indian territory as there had been a long standing row between India and Ceylon (later Sri Lanka) over Kachchativu.

The government insisted that Indian fishermen and pilgrims would continue to enjoy access to Kachchativu without obtaining travel documents or visas.

After Indira Gandhi was voted out in March 1977, I pursued the matter with the Indian foreign ministry.

My socialist friends, the late Surendra Mohan and then minister of state for external affairs Samarendra Kundu, pressured me to give up the battle, saying this could affect India-Sri Lanka relations.

I argued that not resolving the issue would lead to complications at a later date.

This is exactly what has happened now, with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa deciding to press the issue in the Supreme Court.

With the Sri Lankan navy, more aggressive after the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, attacking and killing Tamil Nadu fishermen, and with Jayalalithaa demanding the return of Kachchativu, the dispute is bound to aggravate in the coming times.

Judicial activism shouldn’t erode constitutional principles: President

President Pranab Mukherjee Saturday cautioned against judicial activism resulting in the erosion of constitutional principles of separation of powers between the three pillars of state and and called on Indian judiciary to reinvent itself through introspection and self-correction.

Speaking at the valedictory function of the sesquicentennial celebrations (150 years) of the Madras High Court here, Mukherjee said: “Judicial activism should not lead to the erosion of Constitutional principles of separation of power. The principle of separation of power is the power of restraint.”

Appreciating the intervention of courts in issues based on complaints received by post cards or a newspaper report, he however said judicial activism should not blur the distinction between the three organs – legislature, executive and judiciary – of the state.

Noting laws are enacted by legislature, the executive implements them and the judiciary interprets them, Mukherjee stressed that the balance of power mentioned in the Constitution should be maintained.

He said each organ of the government functioning within its own sphere and none taking over the function of the others is one of the basic features of the Indian Constitution.

Stressing on the need to preserve and protect the independence of the judiciary from any encroachments, Mukherjee said that despite the challenges, the judiciary is working hard and called for to be further strengthened.

He said the Constitution is being amended to increase the retirement age of the high court judges, and sought the assistance of all concerned to ensure filling up of vacancies.

According to him, alternative dispute resolution mechanisms should be encouraged to speed up the delivery of justice.

Mukherjee said selection and appointment of judges should confirm to highest standards as credibility of judiciary would depend on the quality of the judges.

Speaking about the Madras High Court, Mukherjee said it is one of the three courts established in India by Letters of Patent issued by Queen Victoria.

The Madras High Court was set up in Aug 15, 1862, exactly 85 years prior to India’s independence, he said, terming it a “guardian and watch tower”. Many luminaries emerged out of this court, he added.

In his address, union Law Minister Salman Khurshid hoped the delivery of justice in the country gets faster, and noted several courts under the Madras High Court have taken up the e-court system.

Pointing out the allocation of Rs.159.82 crore for various court and court related buildings, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa stressed that her government is sensitive to the needs of the high court.

“An amount of Rs.10 crore has recently been sanctioned for an auditorium and museum for which I have laid the foundation today (Saturday),” she said.

She said the preliminary works on the setting up of the National Law School at Srirangam (her assembly constituency, around 320 km from here) at an outlay of Rs.100 crore has started.

Jayalalithaa also announced the increase in the financial assistance under the Tamil Nadu Advocates’ Welfare Fund from Rs.200,000 to Rs.525,000 without any service period restriction in the event of death of an advocate.

“A recurring annual government grant will be given, up to Rs.4 crore for the Tamil Nadu Advocates’ Welfare Fund,” she said.

Chief Justice of the Madras High Court M.Y.Eqbal welcomed the gathering comprising of state ministers, judges of the Supreme Court, and the Madras, Kerala and Karnataka High Courts, lawyers, government officials and others.