Former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa, sentenced to four-year imprisonment in a disproportionate assets case, was on Tuesday refused bail by the Karnataka High Court.
The order, a blow to the 66-year-old All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) chief and shocked her supporters outside the court, was delivered by Justice A V Chandrashekhara despite Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Bhavani Singh saying he had no objections to conditional bail for her.
There “are no grounds” to give bail to Jayalalithaa. Corruption amounts to “violation of human rights” and leads to economic imbalance, the judge observed in his order, delivered in a packed court room amid tight security in the court complex.
Jayalalithaa’s lawyers are planning to approach the Supreme Court at the earliest to challenge the order. Party MP and lawyer A Navaneethakrishnan said they were awaiting word from her.
The judge said corruption had become a “serious malady in human history” and noted the Supreme Court has repeatedly directed that graft cases be disposed of on a priority basis.
He also held there was no reason to extend the benefit of suspension of sentence to the four convicted, including Jayalalithaa.
Judge Chandrashekhara said corruption had to be dealt with seriously as otherwise, “it will become a disease in our society.” The SPP had earlier filed objections to suspension of the sentence and bail in writing but on Tuesday told the court that conditional bail could be granted to Jayalalithaa and three others.
As word of the SPP’s stance spread, celebrations broke out among AIADMK supporters near the jail and the court, as they burst crackers and danced in joy. The celebrations were short-lived, giving way to shock when the verdict was out. Women wailed and some men laid themselves flat on the road.
Pleas by Jayalalithaa’s close aide Sasikala and her relatives, V N Sudhakaran, also the disowned foster son of Jayalalithaa, and Ilavarasi for suspension of sentence and bail were also rejected.
“My client will take a call,” counsel Ram Jethmalani, who appeared for Jayalalithaa, said after the verdict when asked whether they would approach the Supreme Court.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam appealed to people of the state not to resort to agitations that would adversely affect the public.
After chairing a meeting to review law and order situation in the state, Panneerselvam said, “Some organisations, due to their love and affection towards the revolutionary leader Amma are holding non-violent protests against her conviction. It is not acceptable to link the state government to those protests.”
Citing a court judgment, Justice Chandrashekara said "the suspension of sentence and grant of bail cannot be asked as a matter of routine (saying) that the accused was on bail during the trial and did not misuse the liberties granted." Azmath Pasha, counsel for Ilavarasi, said "tomorrow is holiday. We will get the verdict copy on October 9 and file Special Leave Petition on October 10 in the Supreme Court. All the four... we are approaching."
Strongly pleading for immediate bail to Jayalalithaa, Jethmalani cited several Supreme Court verdicts, including the one granting relief to his client former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad, in the fodder scam.
The court did not accept the submission, with the judge noting that Lalu Prasad had spent 10 months in jail before being granted bail by the apex court.
Jethmalani pleaded for suspension of the sentence by the special court which had sent her to four years in jail, pending her appeal against it.
He also told the court, which took up the matter today after the vacation bench had adjourned it on October one, that the "regular practice" was to give bail.
Jethmalani also said appeals should be heard within a reasonable period of time.
Criticising the judgment 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.
There was nothing disclosed in the conduct of Jayalalithaa to show that she might abscond, he contended.