New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday said G Bhawani Singh, who has been sacked as Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) in the disproportionate assets case against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, was appointed without any objection by the Karnataka Government to conduct the trial.
The apex court, which examined the records relating to the controversy surrounding the appointment and sacking of Singh as SPP at the fag end of the 17-year-old case, said though his name was not in the original list of four senior lawyers recommended for the job, the then acting-Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court recommended him, the fifth candidate, which was accepted without any objection.
"We were searching whether Karnataka Government had any objection and whether consultation required under the law was there or not. We did not find that any objection was raised, rather his remuneration was fixed much higher. We thought that only lawyers in Delhi charge more. He (Bhawani Singh) was getting high fee," a bench comprising justices BS Chauhan and SA Bobde observed.
The remarks were made after Jayalalithaa`s lawyer Shekhar Naphade said, "We don`t know what are the reasons you have searched" on the appointment and subsequent withdrawal of Singh as SPP.
The court on September 20 had called for entire record relating to the controversy surrounding the appointment and sacking of Singh for its perusal to ascertain the reasons to drop him from conducting the proceedings.
Jayalalithaa had criticised in the apex court the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court for allegedly toeing the line of state government and had agreed to go through the entire record on the issue of SPP in the case.
Naphade alleged that removal of Singh when the criminal procedure in the case was at the final stage was done with a political motive.
"It has been done to keep the pot boiling till the election for 2014," he said.... The aim has been to delay the proceedings as the judge trying the case is going to retire on September 30," he said.
Bhawani Singh was appointed as the SPP following the resignation of former advocate general BV Acharya who was the prosecutor in the case from February 2005 to August 2012.
The bench was informed that the state government decided to remove Singh as the SPP during the pendency of petition in the High Court questioning his appointment.
The Karnataka Government had on August 26 issued the notification withdrawing the appointment of Bhavani Singh as SPP.
The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) chief is accused of amassing Rs 66.65 crore between 1991 and 1996 when she was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
The case was transferred by the apex court from Chennai to Bangalore in 2003 during her earlier tenure as the Chief Minister for a free and fair trial.
She had alleged the case was slapped on her by the previous DMK government for political reasons. The counsel for AIDMK leader said, "This case is sue generis. It is a classic case. The state of Karnataka is aiding and abetting the private respondent (party who sought quashing of appointment of Singh as SPP)".
"The reason for opposing the SPP, on the face of it, does not appear to be genuine," he said.
"The collusion between private respondent and state of Karnataka is writ large on the face of it," Naphade submitted and said if there was anything against the SPP, the private respondent could have asked for an enquiry against him.
"We have not much on the issue of Bhawani Singh. But whole thing is designed to protract the trial," he said.
The court will continue with the hearing tomorrow.
During the earlier hearing, Attorney General GE Vahanvati had said the letter of the Chief Justice explained that since there was no consultative process in the appointment of Bhawani Singh, he was removed.
Jayalalithaa and three other accused Sasikala, Ilavarasi and VN Sudhakaran have also sought a direction to restrain Karnataka government from appointing a new judge for conducting the trial against them in a Bangalore court. The present judge is due to retire on September 30.
They have sought extension of the tenure of the present judge till the completion of the trial.
On the hearing on September 13, the apex court had objected to a Karnataka government notification "misrepresenting" an undertaking given by it as an order of the apex court on the appointment of SPP.
The bench on August 30 restrained the Karnataka Government from appointing new SPP in the case. The order was passed on a plea by Jayalalithaa challenging the removal of Bhawani Singh as SPP.
The Karnataka Government through the Attorney General had on September 6 given an undertaking to withdraw the order on removal of Bhawani Singh as SPP in the case.
The court was told that fresh selection of the prosecutor would be done by placing all relevant materials before the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court.