The Karnataka High Court (HC) appointed on Thursday a new judge to the special court trying the Rs 66.65-crore disproportionate assets case against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
The appointment of John Michael Cunha is subject to the issuance of a formal notification by the state government under Section 3 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The appointment came after the Supreme Court asked Karnataka on Wednesday why it did not grant extension to retiring judge M S Balakrishna despite a suggestion to the effect in its September 30 order.
The trial in the case of 1991-96,during first of the three terms of Jayalalithaa as the chief minister,has been mired in controversy.
The trial was at an advanced stage under Balakrishna when his conduct was called into question by DMK leader K Anbazhagan,who filed applications in the special court,high court and before the Karnataka government suggesting that the judge was not fair and alleging that special public prosecutor (SSP) Bhawani Singh was biased in favour of the accused.
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Subsequently,the Congress government in Karnataka removed Singh and the case was stalled. Jayalalithaa then approached the SC,which ordered reinstatement of the SPP on September 30 and suggested that Balakrishna be granted an extension.
The special judge,who retired on September 30,however,refused extension citing personal reasons.
The trial resumed on October 3 when the HC appointed interim judge G B Mudigoudar in-charge. He summoned Jayalalithaa and co-accused V K Sasikala,V N Sudhakaran and J Elavarasi on October 30.
Aggrieved,the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister approached the SC accusing the Karnataka government of contempt of court. She said the government failed to implement an SC order of September 30 to grant Balakrishna an extension.
John Michael Cunha is a district judge who is HC Registrar (Vigilance).
The case against Jayalalithaa was initiated in 1997 by the DMK government in Tamil Nadu. It was transferred to Karnataka by the SC in 2003 on a plea by K Anbazhagan accusing the AIADMK,which returned to power in May 2001,of subversion.
The original SPP in the case in Karnataka B V Acharya quit in August 2012 accusing the then BJP government of seeking his ouster to further political ties with the AIADMK.