Jayalalithaa assets case: SC will hear plea challenging her acquittal in February
-Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal
For Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa and her ADMK party another deadlier trouble than they faced hitherto, soon after the giant floods that shook the Tamil state, is in the pipeline. The ₹66 crore disproportionate assets case continues to haunt her and also should spoil their sleep as the chances to escape “supreme” punishment looks very very bleak, though she and her party functionaries would still believe that “something” divine like PMO can save her.
The Supreme Court on Friday, the January 08, posted for final hearing on February 2 a batch of appeals filed by the Karnataka government and DMK general secretary K. Anbazhagan challenging the acquittal of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa and three others in the ₹66 crore disproportionate assets (DA) by the Karnataka High Court. A Bench comprising Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Amitav Roy granted two weeks to the appellants and Ms. Jayalalithaa and others to submit a note indicating the relevant issues for determination and adjudication in the appeals. “We will start the hearing from February 2 and will hear the matter on February 3 and 4 as well,” justices P C Ghose and Amitava Roy said.
Ms Jayalalithaa in her rejoinder had asserted in her response that there was no ‘mathematical error’ in the Karnataka high court judgment acquitting her and three others and had prayed for dismissal of the appeal. She questioned Karnataka’s locus standi to file this appeal as she said only the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption, Tamil nadu had the right to file an appeal. She said beyond the role of appointing a special public prosecutor, Karnataka had no other role in prosecuting the appeal.
The Supreme Court on decided to commence final hearing on various appeals including the one filed by Karnataka government, which perhaps let the acquittal conceded by the special court in the first place , against acquittal of AIADMK Chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and others in the disproportionate assets case. Earlier the apex court had agreed to conduct day-to-day hearing on the appeals filed against the Karnataka High Court verdict acquitting Jayalalithaa and three others in the case. The bench, meanwhile, asked the counsel for both the parties to file the “issues” highlighting main points to be considered within the next two weeks.
It was Karnataka government counsel and senior advocate Dushyant Dave who suggested to the bench that the appeals be posted for hearing from February 2. The court had fixed the hearing to debate a date for the final arguments and highlight the issues to be argued on in the appeals. Dismissing the requirement to delay the hearing in order to determine what issues should be highlighted, Dave said “issues not determinative in setting down the calendar”. Justice Ghose agreed that the case would be kept at the top of the cause list on the three days of the hearing in the month of February. The bench said that further hearings would continue as per the exigencies of the cases listed during the month.
A special court in Bengaluru (Bangalore) had on 27 September, 2014 held Jayalalithaa guilty of corruption and sentenced her to four years imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 100 crore in the disproportionate assets case. She spent 21 days in Bengaluru’s Parappana Agrahara Central Jail and was released on bail on 18 October. ( Since he has no such big connections like Jayalalithaa , Muslim priest turned democratic politician Abdul Nasser Madani who was falsely put in jail without trials, for years now, continues to be in jail without trials even he was acquitted from Coimbatore Jail where he languished for about 10 years before he was released by courts without finding any credible evidence of his “terrorism”. Madani is a victim of Hindutva-Congress politics in India)
Soon after securing bail, she filed a petition challenging her conviction at the Karnataka HC. She along with her close aides, N Sasikala Natarajan, VN Sudhakaran and J Elavarasi, who were also convicted by the special court, were acquitted by Karnataka HC. Following acquittal, as widely expected from the false judgment, Jayalalithaa was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for the fifth time.
The Karnataka HC had on May 11, 2015 ruled that AIADMK supremo’s conviction by special court suffered from infirmity and was not sustainable in law, clearing decks for her return as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. Karnataka government, in its plea against the May 11 order, claimed that HC erred in computing disproportionate assets of the AIADMK leader.
The state government had also claimed that the high court has erred in overruling preliminary objections raised by it and added that the accused had filed their appeals against conviction without impleading Karnataka as a party. The Karnataka government also asked whether the high court had “erred in law” by according benefit of doubt to Jayalalithaa in pursuance of a Supreme Court judgment holding that accused can be acquitted if his or her disproportionate assets were to the extent of ten per cent.
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who is an intervener, submitted his note highlighting the issues. He said even if the entire judgment is accepted and if one totaling mistake is corrected the total income is Rs 10,67,31,274 as against the erroneous total of Rs 24,17,31,274, the disproportionate assets comes to Rs 16,32,36,812 (it is 76 per cent as against 8.12 per cent as held by the high court). The bench told senior counsel Dushyant Dave for Karnataka, senior counsel T.R. Andhyarujina for Anbazhagan, senior counsel L. Nageswara Rao, Aryama Sundram and Shekar Naphade for Ms Jayalalithaa and others to give written submissions on the issues to be decided in the appeals. Consequently, the judgment of acquittal has to be set aside and conviction should be restored.
A single-judge of the Karnataka high court, while acquitting Ms Jayalalithaa, Ms Sasikala, Ms Iavlrasi and Sudhakaran, had relied upon a judgment of the SC in 1977, holding it would not be an offence if the accused had disproportionate assets which are not more than 10 per cent of the known sources of income. As the accused had only 8.12 per cent, in excess of the known sources of income, the judge gave the accused benefit of doubt and acquitted them.
Karnataka’s ruling Congress government had in June this year filed a petition against Jayalalithaa’s acquittal in the the 19-year-old illegal assets case, saying “High Court’s order was a farce and illegal… It resulted in miscarriage of justice”. Siddaramaiah-led government sought a stay on Jayalalithaa’s acquittal order issued by the Karnataka High Court on 11 May, 2015. The state government cited mathematical errors in the HC acquittal order.
Special Public Prosecutor BV Acharya, who had exposed the judgmental errors facilitating Jayalalithaa’s unexpected acquittal, represented the Siddaramaiah-government in the DA case earlier, is expected to represent the state government in the Supreme Court as well.
Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa originally belonged to Karnataka (Mysore) but lived and acted in Chennai, joined ADMK politics under MGR, her matinee hero turned politician and eventually Tamil Nadu CM, to rise to become the CM of Tamil Nadu. Possibly this is the one of the major reasons why Karnataka government has some “soft’ corner for Jaya.
On July 27, the apex court had issued notices on Karnataka government’s appeal seeking stay of the high court judgment, to Jayalalithaa, her close aide Sasikala and two of her relatives, V N Sudhakaran and Elavarasi, and asked them to file their replies within eight weeks. The apex court had allowed an intervention application by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy in the matter and had asked him to file issues he wished to press before it.
In February last a senior DMK leader K Anbazhagan filed a memo in a special court against the special public prosecutor (SPP) in the Rs 66.65-crore disproportionate assets case against J Jayalalithaa and the department of vigilance of the Tamil Nadu government for allegedly colluding with the Chief Minister to delay trial. K Anbazhagan filed the memo after SPP Bhawani Singh, at the instance of the Tamil Nadu directorate of vigilance, filed an application in the court Monday seeking In February 2014 production of additional silverware weighing 1,061 kg seized in 1997 from Jayalalithaa but handed over to her then personal secretary V Baskaran for safekeeping.
The memo said it was an effort to delay the trial in collusion with the accused since the prosecution had in August last year ignored these material objects and instead sought to conclude arguments. Anbazhagan also pointed out that the SPP had sought to summon Baskaran despite knowing that he died in December last year. “The petitioner superintendent of the DVAC in collusion with the accused has filed the application to help the accused person,’’ the memo says.
This is the second time the DMK accused the prosecution of colluding with the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister in the course of the trial against her. Last August, before a different presiding officer, the party had leveled the same allegation after Bhawani Singh allowed the defence to place its arguments in the case without the prosecution presenting its case. It had then also accused the presiding officer of colluding with the accused.
The DMK allegations had led to hasty removal of the SPP by the Karnataka government but Bhawani Singh was re-instated after the AIADMK approached the Supreme Court. Though the Supreme Court also ordered that the state government extend the term of the previous presiding officer to enable conclusion of the trial, he refused extension following the allegations brought against him.
Jaya is now getting ready for the Assembly poll this year and very much like to use her “victory” in the Supreme Court against DMK and Swamy to seep the poll against a divided opposition led by her arch rival Karunanidhi’s DMK. Karunanidhi’s son MK Stalin is busy meeting the electorates in small groups to place before them his pre-poll promises.
Neither DMK nor AIADMK can contain the evil called corruption which weakens the power of poor people because they are the cause of it. Who else can provide clean and honest governance is not known to Tamilians, either!
Poor masses have no credible alternatives in South India!