Karnataka government today told the Supreme Court that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's plea for extension of the tenure of the judge trying the case of disproportionate assets against her after his retirement on September 30 cannot be accepted.
"The extention after retirement cannot be given at all," Attorney General G E Vahanvati, appearing for Karnataka government, told a bench comprising justices B S Chauhan and S A Bobde, which is also examining the controversy surrounding the appointment and sacking of G Bhawani Singh as Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) in the case.
The Attorney General made the statement after the bench asked him "should we take it that the state government has decided not to extend the tenure of the trial judge"?
Vahanvati said the AIADMK supremo's plea for continuing with the trial judge after his retirement "cannot be accepted for completing the trial".
However, the bench said there had been instances when judges have been appointed on ad-hoc basis.
At this, the Attorney General said ad-hoc judges are not appointed for part-heard matters and in the case in hand on the retirement of the present judge, the case will pass on to a judge who will be appointed in his place.
On the issue of the SPP, the bench said "we are not the tight-spot" and that is why the entire record was called.
The bench also deliberated about the political overtone on the issue of the appointment and sacking Bhawani Singh as the SPP.
"Was there (Karnataka) the same government? When did the government change,?" the bench said.
The Attorney General said the new government came on May 8 this year but the appointment of Bhawani Singh was done without any consultation between the state government and the chief justice of the Karnataka High Court.
"On the face of it, there was no consultation. The previous government did not object to his name referred by the Acting-Chief Justice. But that cannot be the waiver and that cannot be a estoppel (the principle which precludes a person from asserting something contrary to what is implied by previous action or statement)," Vahanvati said.
The bench wondered "why the previous state government accepted the proposal for appointment of Bhawani Singh as SPP" when the state government was not consulted by the acting Chief Justice.
The hearing in the matter will continue tomorrow.
The bench, which had yesterday perused the records, had noted Bhawani Singh, who has been sacked as SPP in the case, was appointed without any objection by Karnataka government to conduct the trial in the 17-year-old case.
The court had on September 20 called for the entire record relating to the controversy surrounding the appointment and sacking of Singh for its perusal to ascertain the reasons to drop him from conducting the proceedings.
Jayalalithaa's counsel Shekhar Naphade had alleged removal of Singh came at a time when the criminal procedure in the case was at the final stage was done with a political motive.
"It has been done to keep the pot boiling till the election for 2014," he said.
"...The aim has been to delay the proceedings as the judge trying the case is going to retire on September 30," he said.
Bhawani Singh was appointed as the SPP following the resignation of former Advocate General B V Acharya who was the prosecutor in the case from February 2005 to August 2012.
The bench was told that the state government decided to remove Singh as the SPP during the pendency of petition in the High Court questioning his appointment.
Karnataka government had on August 26 issued the notification withdrawing the appointment of Singh as SPP.
The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) chief is accused of amassing Rs 66.65 crore between 1991 and 1996 when she was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
The case was transferred by the apex court from Chennai to Bangalore in 2003 during her earlier tenure as the Chief Minister for a free and fair trial.
Jayalalithaa had alleged the case was slapped on her by the previous DMK government for political reasons.
The counsel for the AIADMK leader had said "this case is sue generis. It is a classic case. The state of Karnataka is aiding and abeting the private respondent (party who sought quashing of appointment of Singh as SPP)".
"The reason for opposing the SPP, on the face of it, does not appear to be genuine," he had said.
"The collusion between the private respondent and the state of Karnataka is writ large on the face of it," Naphade had submitted and said if there was anything against the SPP, the private respondent could have asked for an inquiry against him.
During the earlier hearing also, Vahanvati had said the letter of the Chief Justice explained that since there was no consultative process in the appointment of Bhawani Singh, he was removed.
Jayalalithaa and three other accused Sasikala, Ilavarasi and V N Sudhakaran have also sought a direction to restrain Karnataka government from appointing a new judge for conducting the trial against them in a Bangalore court. The present judge is due to retire on September 30.
They have sought extension of the tenure of the present judge till the completion of the trial.
During the hearing on September 13, the apex court had objected to a Karnataka government notification "misrepresenting" an undertaking given by it as an order of the apex court on the appointment of SPP.
The bench had on August 30 restrained Karnataka government from appointing new SPP in the case. The order was passed on a plea by Jayalalithaa challenging the removal of Bhawani Singh as SPP.