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All eyes on Karnataka High Court verdict

May,11,2015: It will virtually decide the political future of Jayalalithaa and the AIADMK.

AIADMK members carrying milk pots to offer prayers for their leader Jayalalithaa's acquittal in Paramakudi, Tamil Nadu.
AIADMK members carrying milk pots to offer prayers for their leader Jayalalithaa’s acquittal in Paramakudi, Tamil Nadu.

The proceedings in court hall 14 of the Karnataka High Court on Monday is certain to have a huge bearing on the politics of Tamil Nadu. The Special Bench of Justice C.R. Kumaraswamy will deliver its verdict on the appeals in the disproportionate assets case, virtually deciding the immediate political future of the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and the AIADMK.

Anticipating trouble by the presence of AIADMK cadres, the police have issued prohibitory orders in an one kilometre radius around the High Court. About 500 policemen are expected to be on duty to avoid trouble.

However, since Ms. Jayalalithaa will stay back in Chennai on Monday (it is not necessary for the accused to be present in the High Court during the judgment), senior AIADMK leaders have given Bengaluru a miss this time. Sources said party MPs have been instructed to stay put in New Delhi since the Parliament is in session. Till Sunday evening, there was no information on any AIADMK Minister landing in Bengaluru.

18-year assets case

The 18-year assets case launched by the DMK government in 1996, following a complaint by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, reached its climax on September 27 last year, when a Special Court convicted Jayalalithaa and three of her associates — V. Sasikala, V.N. Sudhakaran and Ilavarasi — for amassing wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income. They were sentenced to 4 years in prison. A fine of Rs 100 crore was also levied.

The verdict put Ms. Jayalalithaa in jail for a brief period before she eventually got bail from the Supreme Court in October. The apex court had set a three-month deadline for the High Court to complete the appeal.

Among the disproportionate wealth listed are the expenses Ms. Jayalalithaa incurred for the marriage of Mr. Sudhakaran, her now disowned foster son, in 1995, and construction and renovation expenses for a number of buildings, including a part of her residence at Poes Garden. The trial court also dismissed a subscription scheme started by AIADMK party organ Namadhu MGR as fictitious and an “afterthought” to account for the illegal income listed by the prosecution. In total, the court fixed the value of the illegal wealth at Rs. 53 crore as against the Rs. 66 crore claim of the prosecution.

In the appeal, counsel of Ms. Jayalalithaa has laid great emphasis on the argument that the trial court disregarded the orders of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, which had already accepted the proof shown for many of these incomes and assets. Citing Supreme Court judgments, the lawyers had argued that a trial court cannot dismiss the findings of the Tribunal.

The last three months also witnessed high drama as the appointment of Bhavani Singh as Special Public Prosecutor in the appeal was challenged by DMK general secretary K. Anbazhagan. After a split verdict by a two-member Bench, his appointment was struck down by a larger Supreme Court Bench in April.

The controversy

The Karnataka government appointed senior lawyer Bhavani Singh in February 2013 as the Special Public Prosecutor replacing B.V.Acharya, who cited suffering at the hands of ‘interested parties’. The appointment of the SPP was challenged by DMK leader K.Anbazhagan on the grounds that the accused was in collusion with the Special Public Prosecutor. 

The Karnataka HC had rejected the plea after which the DMK general secretary challenged the Supreme Court over the appointment. Former Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa argued that the Mr. Anbazhagan’s plea was not ‘genuine’. 

Even though Ms. Jayalalithaa has the recourse of an appeal in the apex court, the Monday verdict is expected to be a game-changer for Tamil Nadu politics in the short term.

Ever since she obtained bail in October, Ms. Jayalalithaa has remained indoors at her Poes Garden residence. The functioning of the AIADMK government under O. Panneerselvam has drawn flak from opposition parties, who have alleged a policy paralysis in the administration.

With just a year left for the Assembly elections, it would be crucial for the AIADMK that its leader comes out victorious in the case. Already, DMK president M. Karunanidhi has begun to lay the platform for an electoral alliance. After DMDK leader Vijayakant met him, he even went to the extent of stating that such an alliance alone will save the people of Tamil Nadu.

In case the High Court upholds the conviction on Monday, she would remain disqualified under the Representation of People Act from contesting elections for 10 years unless the Supreme Court provides a remedy. On the other hand, an acquittal may give the AIADMK government the much-needed impetus for its last 12 months in office.

Hindu

Read the entire Sessions Court Conviction Judgment in Jayalalitha's DA Case here-

Jayalalitha Assets Sessions Case

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