The fate of the J Jayalalithaa appeal in all probability will be known by March. The Karnataka High Court will constitute a special bench to hear the matter on a day to day basis and the hearing is expected to commence in January.
The Supreme Court on Thursday, Dec 18, while extending the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minster's bail also ordered that the High Court set up a special bench to hear the case on a day to day basis. [SC extends bail of Jayalalithaa]
The High Court which will go on vacation for Christmas will resume proceedings on January 2. It has to first get a copy of the Supreme Court verdict and only then can the Chief Justice constitute a Special Bench to hear the matter. In all probability the proceedings will commence in January and will go on until the end of March.
Jayalalithaa's team happy
For the legal team of Jayalalithaa this comes as a major relief. There was skepticism that the Supreme Court may not order an early hearing of the matter. In normal course courts have rejected such pleas since there are several appeals already pending. In the case of the Karnataka High Court appeals of 2010 are being heard at the moment.
For Jayalalithaa she would require a clarity on the status of her case by the next elections are held. Her team is confident that she will be acquitted in the case and would be able to contest the next elections. The AIDMK feels that they stand a very good chance in the next elections and there is also a sympathy factor attached to it since many have viewed her conviction as grave injustice to her.
The first legal hurdle for Jayalalithaa would be the Karnataka High Court. It was before the same court that her bail was rejected a week after she had been convicted by the special trial court.
The hearing of the appeals can commence immediately after the bench is constituted. As per the pre-condition of the Supreme Court, her legal team has already filed all the necessary papers facilitating for the appeal to be heard immediately.
Appeal before the Supreme Court
The matter would finally have to be heard before the Supreme Court. Whatever the outcome may be before the High Court, either party will approach the Supreme Court which take a final call on the matter. If the High Court upholds the conviction she will have to go before the Supreme Court seeking relief. If she gets relief then the prosecution will go to the Supreme Court.
This would ideally mean that that the case could drag on at least for another year. While the High Court proceedings may be completed in three months, it would take some time before the Supreme Court.
Legal experts however state that in case the appeal cannot be completed before the High Court in three months, extension of time could be sought before the Supreme Court. It would be up to the Supreme Court to study the reasons and then take a final call. However there have been instances where the Supreme Court has granted extension of time.
A lot that rides here
For Jayalalithaa a lot rides on the verdict of the courts. She would be seeking nothing less than her conviction being set aside. As long as her conviction stays she cannot contest the elections. As per the existing order, she has been sentenced to 4 years which means under the rules she cannot contest for 10 years i.e. including 6 years of disqualification as per the rules.
If her conviction is set aside she could contest the elections at any time she wants. However if the court upholds the conviction and reduces her sentence even to a year that means she will have to sit out of the assembly for 7 years at least.