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Beat-about-bush rap on Jaya

New Delhi, March 11: The Supreme Court today adjourned till July a 1992 graft case against Jayalalithaa but indicated that seeking the adjournment was an excuse to play safe for the Lok Sabha elections.

“Why are you beating around the bush? Come straight to the point. You contest the elections. We will hear the case after the results,” a bench of Justices S.S. Nijjar and A.K. Sikri observed after senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi and Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Tamil Nadu chief minister, sought a two-week adjournment.

Jayalalithaa is facing a CBI charge for allegedly receiving $300,000 illegally in 1992 while she was chief minister. Madras High Court had quashed the case in 2011 for delay in registering an FIR and filing the chargesheet, following which the CBI appealed in the apex court.

While adjourning the case, Justice Sikri questioned in a lighter vein: “The one-year deadline applies to us also?”

The oblique reference was to Monday’s order by the apex court that trial courts should complete all criminal cases against MPs/MLAs within a year.

The top court had also stated that if trial courts were unable to stick to the one-year deadline, it would have to submit detailed reasons to the chief justice of the high court under whose jurisdiction it functions.

Today’s apex court order came after Jayalalithaa’s counsel sought two weeks to finalise the reply on the CBI appeal.

The apex court had issued notices to Jayalalithaa and two former ministers in February 2012, but the matter was adjourned on two occasions. K.A. Sengottaiyan and Azhagu Thirunavukkarasu were accused of abetment by the CBI.

The CBI’s case is Jayalalithaa received a remittance of $300,000 by way of a demand draft dated December 23, 1991, issued by Bankers Trust Company, New York, drawn on ANZ Grindlays Bank. The remittance could not be accounted for, it was alleged.

The CBI had contended that though the offence occurred in 1992, it came to the income tax department’s notice only in 1996.

In its appeal, it had stated that as per the allegation in the FIR, detailed investigation was to be conducted in the US, UK and the UAE, which took considerable time.

“But the high court erroneously held that there was no explanation for a further delay of six years (after filing the FIR) in filing the chargesheet,” the CBI stated.