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Sunday, September 02, 2001

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Jayalalithaa may file appeal tomorrow

By Suresh Nambath and A. Subramani

CHENNAI, SEPT. 1. The Chief Minister, Ms. Jayalalithaa, is likely to file an appeal against the stay on the proceedings in the Madras High Court in the TANSI-Pleasant Stay Hotel cases before the Supreme Court on Monday.

For the AIADMK, it is an instance of `justice delayed, justice denied'. Fighting for early acquittal is almost as important as acquittal itself.

When the news of the stay on the proceedings in the High Court in the cases against Ms. Jayalalithaa sank in, the dominant concern in AIADMK circles was the difficulty in obtaining an acquittal by the November 14 deadline. With the six-month period having shortened to weeks, there is now an urgency in the talk of getting the stay vacated. And conspiracy theories abound of a Supreme Court-Centre nexus to prevent Ms. Jayalalithaa from fulfilling the constitutional requirement of becoming a member of the Legislature before November 14. However, even AIADMK men reluctantly concede that Mr. Justice Balasubramanian could have granted at least two more weeks to the Special Prosecutor, Mr. K.V. Venkatapathi, to go through the documents running to 2,200 pages. The judge's assurance that Mr. Venkatapathi would be given reasonable time when his turn came was found unacceptable, as the Special Prosecutor would have been handicapped during defence arguments had he not read all documents.

Many lawyers believe that Mr. Venkatapathi had no recourse other than approaching the apex court as his position in the High Court was being `undermined'.

But even so, those close to the State Government point out that Mr. Venkatapathi had three advocates to assist him. And the case is not so complex as to necessitate a close reading of all documents, they argue.

At the same time, there is a recognition that the image of the High Court has taken a beating. The main prayer of the petitioner was for transfer of the case to another High Court because the accused is the Chief Minister of this State. ``If one is to go by this argument, then an AIADMK Government cannot be expected to prosecute AIADMK men in any case'', they point out.

And if a High Court could be accused of having acted under the influence of the State Government, by the same token, the Supreme Court could be accused of having acted under pressure from the Centre, they say. The issue of `supervisory jurisdiction' of the Supreme Court over the High Court has also arisen in this case.

Some lawyers take the position that Ms. Jayalalithaa as the executive head could not have any say in judicial matters. ``It is unfair to cast aspersions on all judges of the High Court'', they opine.

Yet none of the senior lawyers wants to be specifically quoted on this sensitive issue. They argue that while the AIADMK defence lawyers adopted all delaying tactics in the initial stage, the opposite camp is now stalling the proceedings.

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Section  : Southern States
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