Chennai: Politician and yesteryear actress Jayaprada suffered a legal setback on Friday with the Madras High Court directing her and the former partners of a cinema hall in Chennai to surrender before the jurisdictional magistrate and also deposit ₹20 lakh to get suspension of conviction and bail in a ESI case.
In August this year, the Metropolitan Magistrate in Chennai had sentenced the actor and other partners of a cinema theatre named after her to six months simple imprisonment for not having paid the dues of the Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) for former workers of the theatre.
The property where Jayaprada Theatre, which was shut down nearly two decades ago, once stood, is located in a prime locality in Royapettah off the arterial and landmark Anna Salai next to the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee headquarters. It is worth several hundred crores of rupees in the market. In its heydays, the cinema hall used to screen primarily Bollywood films.
The genesis of the case lies in five complaints lodged by the ESIC against the yesteryear heroine and partners of the cinema theatre alleging non-payment of ESI dues between November 1991 and September 30, 2022 and other charges.
Jayaprada pleads his case in court
During the trial in the case, Jayaprada had contended that the partnership firm was wound up in 2008 and the theatre was now non-functional. However, the Magistrate convicted her and the partners holding that they had committed offenses under the ESIC Act, even before the cinema hall was wound up. Jayaprada and the others were sentenced to serve six months of simple imprisonment and directed to discharge the entire liability. As Jayaprada had not appeared before the Magistrate on the day of the pronouncement of the verdict in the case, the Magistrate had issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against her.
Dismissing her petition appealing against the order, Justice Jayachandran on Friday said the track record of the case justifies the dismissal of the present petitions challenging the refusal of the Principal Sessions Court to suspend the sentence. The judge said the partners of the cinema firm had prolonged the issue for 18 years by filing numerous petitions to “delay the payment of statutory dues”.
Justice Jayachandran also took serious note of the actor and others not appeared before the Magistrate even on the day of the pronouncement of judgement prompting the judicial officer to issue non-bailable arrest warrants against them. The convicts had also not before the principal sessions court while seeking suspension of sentence in September this year.
Convicts get 15 days time-frame
In his order, Justice Jayachandran said the convicts would be entitled to suspension of sentence/bail only if they surrender before the sessions court and deposit ₹20 lakh jointly/severally within 15 days.
“The lower appellate court shall not entertain petition for bail/suspension of sentence unless the pre-condition of deposit is complied with and the accused/petitioner appears physically,” the judge added.