Judgement Day: What Chance Does Jayalalithaa Have?
the Karnataka HC is to deliver its verdict on the appeal on Jayalalithaa’s DA case. What are her options?
On Monday, as the Karnataka High Court will deliver its verdict on the appeal on Jayalalithaa’s DA case, it will also be deciding Jayalalithaa’s political future. So what are the possibilities, and what are her options? Here is a quick rundown.
If Jayalalithaa is Acquitted
This would be a political revival for Jayalalithaa. The AIADMK legislature party can, and possibly will, elect her back as its leader the very same day, paving way for her to become the Chief Minister again. Jayalalithaa needs to get elected from a legislative assembly seat within six months of being elected as Legislature party leader.
Although in 2001, when she was acquitted in two other cases by the Madras High Court, Jayalalithaa chose to contest bye-elections and then take the throne. However, the Karnataka government, which is the sole prosecutor in the case, can approach the Supreme Court with an appeal against the acquittal.
If High Court Upholds Trial Judgment and Jayalalithaa Stays Convicted
Needless to say, this would a huge blow to Jayalalithaa and her legal team. Even if the quantum of punishment is reduced, and only the minimum punishment is given, any conviction under the Prevention of Corruption Act means she will not be able to contest elections for the next six years. Her only option is to then knock on the doors of the Supreme Court.
Will the High Court Suspend the Sentence?
Recently, the Bombay High Court suspended actor Salman Khan’s five year sentence handed over to him by a trial court. However, in Jayalalithaa’s case a suspension is unlikely because the verdict is being pronounced by a higher court, and High Courts usually do not invoke Section 389 of the Code to suspend sentence.
What Will Happen if High Court Upholds Conviction?
Since this is one of the few cases where the jurisdiction of the court is different from where the complaint was given, there is much ambiguity over what happens after a verdict upholding a conviction. Legal experts say that once the High Court delivers its verdict, the order copy will be sent to a lower court in Bengaluru, the city civil court in the city.
In a case like this, the High Court in its order can mention that the convicts need to surrender on or before a particular date. “It depends on Jayalalithaa’s legal team what to do next. She can surrender before the Bengaluru court. Issuing an arrest warrant arises only in cases where the convict refuses to surrender or absconds,” says M Radhakrishnan, a senior lawyer practising in the Madras High Court.
Once in police custody, Jayalalithaa’s lawyers can approach the Supreme Court with a Special Leave Petition, asking for suspension of sentence and bail with a certificate from the magistrate.
The Supreme Court will not take up the case if the Special Leave Petition is not accompanied with a certificate from the magistrate citing that the convict has surrendered. So this means Jayalallithaa will have to surrender to the lower court in Bengaluru, then approach Supreme Court.
She will however be given time before being taken to police custody, it will not be immediate.
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