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Tuesday, September 04, 2001

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SC to hear Jayalalithaa's petition on Friday

By J. Venkatesan

NEW DELHI, SEPT. 3. The Supreme Court will hear on Friday, September 7, a petition filed by the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Ms. Jayalalithaa, for vacating the interim stay on the hearing of her appeals in the Madras High Court, challenging her conviction in the `TANSI land deal' and `Pleasant Stay Hotel' cases.

A Bench, comprising Mr. Justice S.P. Bharucha and Mr. Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, posted the petition (which also prayed for the dismissal of the transfer petition filed by the State prosecutor, Mr. K.V. Venkatapathi) for hearing on Friday after senior counsel for Ms. Jayalalithaa, Mr. K.K. Venugopal, mentioned it for early hearing of the matter.

In her petition filed in response to the notice issued by the Supreme Court on August 30, Ms. Jayalalithaa assailed the averment of Mr. Venkatapathi for transfer of the appeals to some other High Court which said ``in view of the fact that the appellant is a Chief Minister of the State, and therefore, it raises serious doubts about the fair and impartial conduct of the appeal before the High Court''.

`Indictment of judges'

The petitioner also submitted that to say that each of the 36 judges of the Madras High Court would be biased in her favour and that no impartial judgment would be delivered ``is not only an indictment of the judges of all the High Courts but also of the very justice delivery system in the country itself''.

Ms. Jayalalithaa submitted that there were any number of Chief Ministers who while in office had been indicted by the High Court judges. A statement of this nature coming from the prosecutor for transfer of the cases would seriously shake the confidence of the public in the impartial and independent discharge of functions by the High Court judges.

She further said that ``there are political overtones in the case as she won a landslide victory, in the teeth of opposition by the main ruling party at the Centre and the DMK party at the State level, at the polls''.

She alleged that ``the combined effort of these political parties appears to be to drag on the proceedings and delay it as far as possible so that ultimately she will not even have a chance of trying to clear her fair name through the judicial process with the result that on the expiry of six months of her present tenure (on November 13), instability would be brought about in Tamil Nadu to the advantage of the main Opposition party''.

Ms. Jayalalithaa pleaded that the facts stated in the petition filed by Mr. Venkatapathi in which an ex-parte stay was granted by the court on August 30 had suppressed material facts, were incorrect and intended to mislead the court.

She said that excerpts of the TV interview (a video cassette of the interview was also filed in the court) given by Mr. Venkatapathi on August 27 would show that the High Court judge had extended to him all facilities for effectively preparing and addressing arguments.

Ms. Jayalalithaa said if the true facts had been known, the Supreme Court would not have granted a stay of the trial in the High Court, where two of the appellants had already completed their arguments in four of the appeals and the remaining appellants would only take a few more hours to complete their arguments.

Constitution Bench to hear PILs

Meanwhile a five-judge Constitution Bench will hear on Tuesday a batch of Public Interest Litigation petitions challenging her appointment as Chief Minister by the then Tamil Nadu Governor, Ms. Fathima Beevi on May 14.

A petition seeking to restrain her from functioning as the Chief Minister following the Court's recent judgment that convicted public servants shall not hold public office would also come up for hearing before the Bench.

A Bench comprising Mr. Justice K.T. Thomas and Mr. Justice S.N. Variava today adjourned by three weeks a special leave petition (SLP) filed by the CBI against the order of the Madras High Court staying the trial of the `SPIC disinvestment case' pending before a special court in Chennai.

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