Special Judge John Michael D'Cunha, who convicted Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in the disproportionate assets case today, has a reputation of being a no-nonsense judge who gave an indication of his stern approach while dealing with the politically volatile case.
D'Cunha, who has grabbed attention for delivering the historic verdict and is the man of the moment, is the fifth judge to deal with the 18-year-old case after it was transferred to Bangalore by the Supreme Court in November 2003.
The DA case against the AIADMK supremo that took nearly 11 years at the Special Court in Bangalore to reach the stage of final verdict, witnessed four full-time judges before it landed in the hands of D'Cunha.
A S Pachhapure, the first judge of the Special Court, assumed the post in December 2003 but he could not conduct proceedings from August 2005 as the Supreme Court had stayed the order passed by him by clubbing the two cases into one case of disproportionate assets. The post fell vacant in July 2007 when Pachhapure was elevated as a judge of the Karnataka High Court.
Later A T Munoli took charge as the judge but no effective proceedings were held during his tenure due to Supreme Court’s stay order. After his retirement, B M Mallikarjunaiah was appointed to the post.
The trial had made substantial progress as crucial proceedings like re-examination of some of the witnesses by the prosecution, recording the statements of Jayalalithaa in person, etc were conducted during the tenure of Mallikarjunaiah, who retired in August 2012.
M S Balakrishna took over the position in November 2013 and he completed the process of recording statements of three other accused and had almost completed the recording of final arguments when the controversy arose about the certain procedure adopted by him and the new Special Public Prosecutor G Bhavani Singh.
Though Supreme Court upheld the procedure and permitted to continue the service of Balakrishna beyond his retirement for completing the trial, he refused to continue after his retirement on September 30, 2013.
Following this, D'Cunha was appointed to the post in October 2013 and he heard the final arguments afresh. He had passed strictures against the accused and their counsel.
During the course of hearing of the final arguments, he gave an indication of his stern approach by rebuking the defence for what what he called attempts at "protracting the trial and suppressing the facts from the Court."
Cunha, hailing from Mangalore, had started practise as a lawyer in 1985 and was selected to the post of district judge in 2002. He served in Dharward, Bellary and Bangalore in various positions, including as Secretary to the Chief Justices and as Registrar (Vigilance) of the High Court prior to his present posting.