Bangalore: Jailed AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa must be granted immediate bail pending hearing of her appeal against the verdict of the Special Court convicting her in the disproportionate assets case, senior counsel Ram Jethmalani appearing for her told the Karnataka High Court today.
Arguing for the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Jethmalani pleaded for suspension of the sentence by the Special Court which had sent her to four years in jail. Jethmalani pleaded for suspending the sentence pending appeal under Section 389 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Under Section 389, pending any appeal by a convicted person, the Appellate Court may order that the execution of the sentence or order appealed against be suspended. Also, if the person is in confinement, that he or she be released on bail, or on own bond.
The “regular practice” was to give bail, Jethmalani told Justice A V Chandrashekhara, who took up the matter which was posted for today by the vacation bench on October 1. Jethmalani cited the Lalu Prasad case in the fodder scam, in which he appeared for him, to press for bail for Jayalalithaa, who is lodged at Parapana Agrahara central prison here since September 27.
The High Court had refused bail in the Lalu case but it was granted by the Supreme Court, he said. Jethmalani also said appeals should be heard within a reasonable period of time.
He said there was nothing disclosed in the conduct of the Jayalalithaa to show that she might abscond. Criticising the judgement of the Special Court in the Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate case, he said assets prior to the period between 1991 and 1996 (when Jayalalithaa was Chief Minister) could not be taken into account.
Matters in favour of the accused must be treated with equal importance, he said. The accused must stand a chance unless the prosecution can prove that it is absolutely false. The court then adjourned for a break.
Counsel Amit Desai, appearing for Jayalalithaa's close aide Sasikala and her relatives V N Sudhakaran, disowned son of the former Chief Minister, and Ilavarasi, who have also been sent to four years in jail in the 18-year old case, pleaded for bail.
He told the court that no witness talked of assets acquired by the three and suspicion cannot take the place of evidence.
They had no involvement in bulk of the assets. Special Court Judge John Michael D' Cunha, in his September 27 verdict, had held Jayalalithaa and three others guilty of corruption that unseated her as Chief Minister.
He had slapped a fine of Rs 100 crore on Jayalalithaa and Rs 10 crore each on the three other accused. In her petitions seeking immediate bail and challenging her sentence, Jayalalithaa has maintained that the charge of amassing wealth against her during 1991-96 when she was chief minister for the first time was false and that she had acquired property through legal means.
Jayalalitha has also contended that the trial court has overlooked several judgements and has not considered the binding nature of various income tax orders and decisions of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, which had accepted the income and the level of expenditure pleaded by her.
Tight security was in force around the Karnataka High Court complex with policemen deployed in good strength anticipating rush of AIADMK supporters and leaders.
Prohibitory orders are in force in the vicinity of the court and also Parappana Agrahara Jail, close to the entry point from Hosur on Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border where police kept a close vigil on entry of vehicles.
Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Elavarasi are also lodged in the same prison.
The high court vacation bench had on October 1 deferred the matter till October 7 to be taken up by a regular bench after the end of Dasara vacation.