Bengaluru, February 14 (NIA): It was as a Bengaluru Special Judge, John Michael D’Cunha, who first sent V.K.Sasikala and the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa, to jail for amassing wealth illegally.
On September 7, 2014, the slightly built and bespectacled D’Cunha from Mangalore, boldly convicted the powerful Chief Minister, her companion Sasikala along with relations Sudhakaran and Ilavarasi in the 18-year-old Disproportionate Assets case.
D’Cunha sentenced all to four years imprisonment. While Jayalalithaa was asked to pay a fine of INR 1000 million in addition, Sasikala and other accused were asked to pay INR 100 million each.
In October 2013, D’Cunha had been appointed by the Indian Supreme Court to the post of Special Judge to hear the case relating to Jayalalithaa and others. He was the fifth judge to hear the long-drawn out case. [
But they were all acquitted by the High Court of Karnataka on May 11, 2015. The High Court claimed that the trial court judge D’Cunha’s order was not sustainable in law.
But the Karnataka government appealed to the Supreme Court. On February 14, 2017, it got an order setting aside the acquittal and sentencing the surviving second accused V.K.Sasikala to a four year jail term, a fine of INR 100 million. The first accused Jayalalithaa had died on December 5, 2016.
Flag Hoisting Case Against Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister
In the 1994 flag hoisting at Idgah Maidan case, a local Magistrate had issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against Uma Bharati, the then Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. But Bharti evaded arrest.
Bharati, who belonged to the Hindu rights wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had tried to hoist the Indian national flag at the Idgah Maidan though it was the private property of a local Muslim institution. She was trying to intimidate the Muslims by doing so.
The Magistrate’s court served a final arrest warrant on Bharati 3 August 2004.
Seeking to quash charges against her, Bharati approached the court of D’Cunha, then the District Judge of Hubli. D’Cunha rejected the petition because according to the statute of limitations, the case was too stale by 697 days.
D’Cunha also rejected as defective a petition filed by Government of Karnataka that sought to reopen the case. He directed the government to cite ‘proper grounds’ for reopening the case and approach the Judicial Magistrate First Class 2nd Court in that regard.
Following this, Bharti resigned her position as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and on August 25, 2004, surrendered to the court at Hubli, and was remanded for 14 days.
The subsequent application to withdraw the case against Bharti and 21 other defendants was accepted on September 6, 2004 by Mohammed Ismail, Judicial Magistrate First Class 2nd Court. Bharati was then released.
D’Cunha was elevated to the Karnataka High Court as a Judge on November 11, 2016.
Always went by the law
John Michael D’Cunha, is an alumnus of the Sri Dharmasthala Manjunateshwara Law College, Mangalore. Amrith Kini, his earlier partner at MANU Advocates told Mangalore Today that he is a no-nonsense upright person, who is only focused with the job on hand.
Having passed out in 1984, Michael started independent practice before joining hands with Amrith, M P Nornoha and S K Ullal in 1995. “MANU’” is an acronym of the letters in the names of each of these advocates.
Amrith said that while he along with Michael and Ullal started practicing in 1985, M P Noronha joined them in 1990 and the four got together five years later one day at their office in Takshila Building in Mangalore.
“He always showed an inclination to be in the judiciary even in the early days and has consistently proved himself ever since when he joined as a district judge in Dharwad. The Uma Bharti case in October 2004 proved he is not influenced by pressure and status,” he said.
As the First Additional District and Sessions Judge in Hubli, Michael John D’Cunha accepted a criminal revision petition filed on behalf of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) questioning a decision of the lower court discharging former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Uma Bharti, and others from a criminal case (the Idgah Maidan case). The case came up for hearing before Michael D’Cunha.
Michael had also taken up review petitions filed by journalist Gouri Lankesh and four others against a lower court’s decision.
D’Cunha, from Mangalore was selected to the post of district judge in 2002. He served in Dharwad, Bellary and Bangalore in various positions, including as secretary to the chief justices and as registrar (Vigilance) of the high court prior to his present posting.
P Ashok Ariga, president, Mangalore Bar Association, a junior of Michael at the Bar said Michael was a person who was obsessed about law and justice.
“He showed this in the Jayalalitha case,” Ariga said.
(The features image at the top shows Karnataka High Court Judge John Michael D’Cunha, who as a Special Judge at Bengaluru in 2014, first sentenced Sasikaka, Jayalalithaa, Sudhakaran and Ilavarsi to imprisonment and slapped huge fines)