The Supreme Court on Friday allowed the Tamil Nadu government to withdraw a corruption case involving alleged acquisition of two hotels in a London suburb by former chief minister J. Jayalalitha in 1994 at a cost of Rs.248 crore/Rs.2.48 billion.
A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice H.S. Bedi and Justice P. Sathasivam allowed the Tamil Nadu government's plea to withdraw the case involving acquisition of two London hotels in violation of country's laws, including monetary ones, currently pending at a special anti-corruption court in Bangalore.
Besides the case related to acquisition of hotels in London, the Bangalore court is also adjudicating another corruption case against Jayalalitha, accusing her of amassing wealth far exceeding her legal income. The two cases, registered by the DMK government in 2000 against Jayalalitha, had been transferred out of Tamil Nadu by the apex court in November 2003 on a lawsuit by DMK general secretary K. Anbazhagan.
The apex court had transferred the cases out of the state on Anbazhagan's contention that a fair trial in the two cases against Jayalalitha was not possible in Tamil Nadu at a time when the state government was being headed by her.
The Tamil Nadu government had to come to the apex court to seek its permission for withdrawal of a case against Jayalalitha from the Bangalore court as the apex court earlier in 2005 had frozen the trial of the two cases pending in the Bangalore court.
After transfer of the two cases to it, the Bangalore special court had proceeded on to club the two cases together for the purpose of the trial despite the fact that they had been probed separately.
The clubbing of the two cases against Jayalalitha by the Bangalore court was challenged again by Anbazhagan on whose petition, the apex court suspended the trial of the two cases for the time being, pending disposal of the plea against their clubbing.
In its application seeking apex court's permission for withdrawal of the London hotel case against Jayalalitha from the Bangalore court, the Tamil Nadu government submitted that as per the legal opinion given to it by its law officers, the state has a very weak case against Jayalalitha as it may not withstand the legal scrutiny of the court.
The application said that the trial of London hotel case against Jayalalitha involves deposition by several witness from abroad and it may not be possible for the state government to secure the presence of all foreign witnesses in the court.
Legal experts point out that with the state government getting apex court's permission to withdraw one of the cases against Jayalalitha from the Bangalore court, it has removed the hurdle in resumption of her trial in the Bangalore court.
In absence of the second case against her in the Bangalore court, there would be no question of the clubbing two cases and accordingly, Anbazhagan's plea against the clubbing would become infrutuous, which may pave the way for the state government to plead to the apex court to order restart of the trial against Jayalalitha.