The high profile appeal in the J Jayalalithaa disproportionate assets came to a close yesterday with the Supreme Court reserving its verdict. The judgment of the Supreme Court is keenly awaited by a lot of people as there are repercussions involved in it which concerns the political future of the Tamil Nadu chief minister, J Jayalalithaa.
If convicted, she would have to immediately step down as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Moreover she will not be able to fight an election for six years. Ever since the verdict was reserved yesterday, there have been a host of messages and calls from interested parties asking what would the verdict be like. Basically there are four possibilities and below let us see what they are.
It was Karnataka the prosecuting state which went in appeal to the Supreme Court against Jayalalithaa's acquittal by the Karnataka High Court. Karnataka had demonstrated at length why the order of the trial court convicting her and three others should be upheld.
If the Supreme Court was convinced with the arguments made by Karnataka, then the case would result in a conviction. The court apart from an order of conviction would also decide on the quantum of the sentence. The trial court had sentenced Jayalalithaa and three others to four years imprisonment and a Rs 100 crore fine.
Jayalalithaa's counsel however argued that the trial court order was wrong. They pleaded that the verdict of the High Court be upheld. They also argued that the assets in question were not illegal and were raised through valid means.
If they have managed to convince the Supreme Court then an order of acquittal would be passed. The court would just uphold the order of the Karnataka High Court and the existing scenario in which the TN CM stands acquitted would continue.
This would be a breather of the TN CM since there are no more appellate forums available. Karnataka court seek a review or file a curative petition after that, but the chances of that are extremely bleak. The Supreme Court in nine out of ten cases do not interfere with their own order.
Refer the matter back to the High Court:
During the arguments various times Karnataka pointed out to the arithmetic errors committed by the High Court. They said if the errors were rectified, then the conviction would stand. The Supreme Court has an option of referring the matter to the High Court to look into the errors.
This was a point that was brought to the notice of the Supreme Court. However the junior judge on the Bench, Justice Amitava Roy said that this is not a possibility. He said if the matter goes back to the High Court the order of the trial would come into force and this would mean Jayalalithaa and others would stand convicted. This would be injustice, he pointed out.
However the Supreme Court does have the option of referring the matter back to the High Court and ordering that the conviction be kept in abeyance. If this is done, Jayalalithaa would stand acquitted until the High Court relooks into the case.
The last option would be refer the matter back to the lower court and order a re-trial. This is an option that can be exercised by the Supreme Court. However since a re-trial would be time consuming, the Supreme Court can pass a specific order.
The court could tell the trial court not to go into the witnesses and only look into contentious portions such as the companies involved and the disproportionate income. Ever since the verdict has been reserved there is a strong rumour floating that the Supreme Court may order a re-trial.