The Madras High Court on Monday set aside a lower court order directing Karnataka jail authorities to produce V K Sasikala, who is serving a four-year sentence in a Bengaluru prison, before it in connection with a FERA case.
Allowing a petition by Sasikala, a close aide of former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa, Justice N Anand Venkatesh, directed the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court (Economic Offences-I) to conduct the proceedings through video conferencing.
In her petition, Sasikala, convicted in a disproportionate asset case, submitted that at the time of framing of charges in the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) case, she was allowed to be examined through video conferencing in view of health reasons cited by her.
Her plea of not guilty was also recorded. Thereafter, prosecution witnesses have been recalled and cross-examined.
At this stage, the trial judge claimed to have found that the answer of the petitioner had not been signed by her.
For this purpose, the magistrate had directed the jail authorities to produce her on December 13, the petition stated.
The magistrate failed to see that she had already filed an affidavit stating that she will not claim prejudice on account of video conferencing, Sasikala said in her petition.
No provision required the signature of the accused while reading out the charges, she contended.
Prosecution has been launched against Sasikala, another accused, Bhaskaran, and the now defunct J J TV by the Enforcement Directorate in 1995 and 1996 on charges of FERA violations in transactions, including remittances for a transponder and uplinking charges for the channel.
On February 15, 2017, Sasikala was sent to Parapana Agrahara jail, a day after the Supreme Court restored her conviction in the disproportionate assets case.
(With inputs from agencies.)