Dismissing the appeals filed under S. 389 (1) of CrPC by Jayalalithaa before the Karnataka High Court, Justice A.V.Chandrashekara today ordered that the question of granting bail to the accused doesn't arise.
Jayalalithaa had approached the High Court after being convicted by a Special Court in a DA case. Along with the former Chief Minister, the bail pleas of her aides Sasikala, V. Sudhakaran and J. Elavarasi were also dismissed. The High Court also dismissed their plea for suspending the sentence imposed on them until their appeal against conviction is decided by the High Court.
The Special Public Prosecutor had filed detailed objections to the applications seeking suspension of sentence on October 1st. The Prosecution had then stated, "The unimpeachable evidence of prosecution witnesses amply establishes the case of prosecution. The charges of accusation being proved and conviction being upheld is bright as the state has got very good case on merits and therefore, the above application does not merit any consideration." It had also submitted "In view of the seriousness of the offences and keeping in view the status of the accused the prosecution reasonably apprehends that if the conviction and sentence is stayed, she may misuse the liberty and in such event, it will be difficult for prosecution to secure the presence of the accused for receiving the sentence, if the appeal is dismissed by this Hon'ble court in the latter stage."
Moreover, the Prosecution had also said, "It is most respectfully submitted that Section 389(1) of Cr.P.C. provides only suspension of sentence and not the conviction as prayed for." It had accordingly prayed for dismissal of application for bail and suspension of sentence.
However, the in the Court today, when asked to submit his arguments, the Special Public Prosecutor submitted that he has no arguments to make and that the sentence may be suspended and the accused may be released on imposing conditions deemed fit under the circumstances of the case.
Appearing for Jayalalithaa, Senior Advocate Ram Jethmalani submitted that "judgment of the Trial Court is neither sustainable in law nor on facts". He also asked for a "lenient view insofar as suspending the sentence is concerned, since there is no possibility of an early hearing in a case like this with voluminous evidence." He also submitted, "appeal should not be rendered infructuous because of the delay that would be caused in hearing the appeal."
However, the Court looking into the words of the provisions very carefully, observed, "It is true that in all the appeals filed under Section 374(2) of Cr.P.C. good number of grounds have been taken up to be urged at the time of submitting final arguments. It is true that the sentence of imprisonment imposed on these accused is below seven years and that normally the Courts are expected to suspend the sentence. But the word "may" used in Section 389 Cr.P.C. does not say that it is an absolute right of the accused to seek suspension of sentence. Anyhow the Court is expected to apply its mind and consider all relevant factors without going to the merits of the case in an application filed under Section 389 (1) of Cr.P.C."
The High Court also highlighted the approach regarding corruption cases, and the order states, "Hon'ble Supreme Court has added new dimension to the cases arising out of Corruption Act cases. Looking to the whole gamut of cases relied upon by the Hon'ble Apex Court in Balakrishna Dattatrya's case, this Court is of the opinion that corruption is a serious melody undermining the very health of polity."
The order also states, "Hon'ble Supreme Court has given directions to all the Special Courts dealing with offences under Prevention of Corruption Act as specified under Section 8(1) to (3) of theRepresentation of the People Act, 1951 that trial will have to be conducted speedily within a year from the date of framing charges. This order has been passed by the Hon'ble Supreme Court on 10.3.2014 in W.P (Civil) No.536/2011 Public Interest Foundation & Ors. vs. Union of India & Anr.The decision of the Hon'ble Supreme Court is in the light of the decision in the case of Lily Thomas v. Union of India reported in 2013 (7) SCC 653."
Highlighting the approach of the Supreme Court regarding corruption cases, the High Court said, "The whole emphasis of the Hon'ble Apex Court towards the prosecution case is very clear "Put the cases of corruption on Fast Track."
The order also made observations about the position of Jayalalithaa, it states, "accused No.1 was a high constitutional functionary in the State of Tamil Nadu being the Chief Minister. The allegation is that during the check period she had amassed wealth and accused Nos.2 to 4 were hand in glove with her having resided with her during the relevant period and afterwards also."
Following the precedents regarding the point of law, the Court noted, "In view of the clear observation made by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Balakrishna Dattatrya's case that corruption violates human rights and leads to systematic economic crisis, that this is not a fit case in which the sentence could be suspended. Apart from this, relying upon K.C.Sareen Vs. C.B.I. Chandigarh reported in AIR 2001 SC 3320, the Hon'ble Apex Court in Balakrishna Dattatrya's case has held that a person convicted of an offence punishable under Section 389(1) of Cr.P.C, the Corruption Act isdeemed to be corrupt, till he or she is exonerated by the Appellate Court or the Revisional Court."
Refusing to suspend the sentence, the Court said, "Taking all this into consideration this Court is of the opinion that no grounds exists to suspend the sentence."
Addressing the Bail application, the Court observed, "Viewed from any angle, this is not a fit case in which sentence could be suspended and bail could be consequentially granted. Hence applications filed under Section 389(1) of Cr.P.C. are liable to be dismissed."
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