With disproportionate assets case trial reaching a crucial stage in Bengaluru, it appears that amma is running out of options. After trying out all legal ways Jayalalitha was not able to avoid her personal appearance which she feels as a major embarrassment. Jayalalitha’s position as Chief Minister of a state was not able to prevent her from appearing in the court and answer the barrage of questions posed to her by the Trial Judge Mallikarjuniah.
Section 313 makes it mandatory in a trial for an accused to explain any circumstances on the evidence against him. The next stage of after questioning under 313 Cr.P.C. is examination of defence witnesses. The possibility of Jayalalitha to prolong the trial under the guise of examining numerous witnesses is limited in cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Further in disproportionate assets cases the burden of proof of proving the sources which are considered to be ‘known sources of income’ through which the assets are acquired, is on the accused. So Jayallitha doesn’t have the luxury of summoning numerous witnesses.
Another possibility is for Jayalalitha to seek re-examination of the Investigating Officer and based on his testimony recall the prosecution witnesses under section 243 Cr.P.C. But this loophole is completely plugged due to the rigging of trial by Jayalalitha during her 2001-2006 tenure.
When Jayalalitha was Chief Minister in 2002 a total of 74 prosecution witnesses who had already deposed and cross examined on behalf of Jayalalitha were recalled and re-examined. Of the 74 witnesses 64 witnesses retracted their earlier deposition and gave a complete contrary statement. The then public prosecutor had chosen not to object to the witnesses giving contrary statement or made any attempt to declare them as hostile. Only at this point DMK general secretary K.Anbalagan moved the Supreme Court and got the trial transferred to Bengaluru.
After the trial was transferred to Bengaluru the 64 witnesses who turned hostile were again examined by the Bengaluru Special Court and they had deposed that they were threatened by DVAC officials to go back on their statement. Evidences of these witnesses would definitely weigh against Jayalalitha and would curtail her chances of re-calling prosecution witnesses given the fact that she has become the Chief Minister again.
A Division Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices S.N.Variava and H.K.Sema observed in the judgment “On a question from Court we were informed that the witnesses were recalled as Senior counsel for the second Respondent had been busy attending to some other case filed against her when they were first examined. This could hardly have been a ground for recall of witnesses. The fact that the public prosecutor now appointed did not object to such an application itself suggests that free and fair trial is not going on. It appears that process of justice is being subverted. This gets reinforced by the fact that even when witness after witness has resiled from what they had stated in the evidence in chief, yet no steps have been taken by the public prosecutor to resort to Section 154 of the Indian Evidence Act.”
This would be cited by the court appointed public prosecutor B.V.Acharya to thwart any attempt by the defence to re-call witnesses who had been examined in chief and cross already.
Even if the court permits recalling of witnesses the chances of their deposing in favour of Jayalalitha retracting their earlier statement is very bleak as the Supreme Court on Anbalagan’s petition has empowered the public prosecutor to take action for perjury against the witnesses. The Court had said “ The public prosecutor will also be at liberty to apply that action in perjury to be taken against some or all such witnesses. Any such application/s will be undoubtedly considered on its merit/s.”
Further Jayalalitha had rubbed the Public Prosecutor B.V.Acharya on the wrong side by asking a Deputy Superintendent of Police to address the Special Court Judge, directly over ruling B.V.Acharya seeking orders for further investigation. B.V.Acharya and the trial judge took serious exemption to this and the DSP had to tender an unconditional apology.
Seeking adjournments under one pretext or other may also be a remote chance as the apex court had directed that the trial should be conducted on a day to day basis. Citing the long pendency of the case from 1997, the court said “As the matter is pending since 1997 the State of Karnataka shall appoint Special Judge within a month from the date of receipt of this Order and the trial before the Special Judge shall commence as soon as possible and will then proceed from day to day till completion.” The Special Judge has to bear in mind these directions of the Supreme Court before granting any adjournments.
Any help from the Karnataka government’s side is also doubtful based on the turn of events . Thousands of AIADMK cadres who were visiting Bengaluru to cheer Amma were stopped at Karnataka border by the police and turned away. In fact Bengaluru police went to the extent of searching passenger buses and throw people who are wearing a dhoti with ADMK colours.
With all the holes being plugged and the noose getting tightened it appears that Amma has been pushed into a corner. Whether she would be able to bounce back is a million dollar question...