The apex court judgment, delivered by Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Amitava Roy at a time when the state is witnessing a bitter power struggle in the aftermath of Jayalalithaa’s demise, set aside the Karnataka High Court order acquitting all the four accused and “restored in toto” the Trial Court’s decision in the 21-year-old disproportionate assets case.
The 61-year-old Sasikala will now have to serve a jail term of around three-and-half years out of four years awarded by the trial court as she has already undergone almost six months in prison. The Special Trial Court had found disproportionate assets worth Rs 53.60 crore, that Jayalalithaa and the three others could not account for. The CBI had alleged that the unaccounted wealth was in the tune of Rs 66.65 crore. The top court directed Sasikala and her two relatives — VN Sudhakaran, Jayalalithaa’s foster son, and Elavarasi, widow of Sasikala’s elder brother, to “forthwith surrender” before the Bengaluru’s trial court which will “take immediate steps” to ensure that all the three “serve out the remainder of sentence awarded to them, in accordance with law.”
Sasikala had been in the jail in 1996 when the case was registered and later in 2014 after the Special trial court convicted and awarded a four-year sentence with a fine of Rs 10 crore. Jayalalithaa was awarded four-year jail term, besides a fine of Rs 100 crore. The apex court, which abated the proceedings against Jayalalithaa who breathed her last on December 5 last year, held that the criminal conspiracy was hatched at her Poes Garden residence in Chennai.
“After analysing the facts and circumstances of this case and after taking into consideration all the evidence placed before us and the arguments put forward by all the parties, we are of the unhesitant opinion that the impugned judgment and order rendered by the High Court is untenable and is thus set aside,” the bench said in its 570-page judgment.
The bench, which heard the arguments between February 23 to June 7 last year, held that the judgment of the High Court was “untenable” as it had wrongly calculated the disproportionate assets of the accused persons who were operating 34 companies during the “check-in” period, starting July 1991 till April 1996 when Jayalalithaa was the Chief Minister.
“Furthermore, the reasoning given by the Trial Court in respect of criminal conspiracy and abetment, after scrutinising the evidence of this case, is correct in the face of the overwhelming evidence indicating the circumstances of active abetment and conspiracy by accused (Sasikala and her two relatives) in the commission of the above offences under Section 13(1)(e) of the 1988 Act (Prevention of Corruption),” it said.
General Secy under cops’ constant watch
Late on Tuesday, AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala left the Golden Bay resort in Koovathur near here and returned to Chennai. Earlier in the afternoon, following the SC order directing Sasikala to surrender immediately, a team of police personnel entered the luxury resort and requested her to surrender at the earliest. Police sources said Sasikala is in the custody of police as they will have to ensure her surrender at Karnataka court. “It is the duty of the police to ensure her surrender and prevent any possible attempt to abscond,” a senior police official said. Police said a special team will be going along with Sasikala to Bengaluru and would return only after she along with other accused surrender at the court.
Moves and countermoves
A look at how events played out after the Supreme Court verdict on the Jayalalithaa disproportionate assets case
- 9.50 am: Mettur MLA Semmalai and Mettupalayam MLA OK Chinnaraj shifted allegiance and pledged loyalty to O Panneerselvam
- 10.40 am: Supreme court convicts VK Sasikala
- 11.15 am: Panneerselvam’s supporters celebrate outside his residence on Greenways road
- 12:20 pm: Mylapore MLA and former Tamil Nadu DGP Nataraj joins OPS camp
- 12:30 pm: Panneerselvam cautions MLAs to carefully choose leader based on the prevailing political situation in the state
- 12:45 pm: Sasikala expels Panneerselvam along with the ministers who backed him
- 12.50 pm: Sasikala names Edappadi Palanisamy as the new chief minister candidate
- 1 pm: DMK working president MK Stalin requests Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao to establish stable government in the state
- 1.10 pm: Panneerselvam along with supporters leaves for Golden Bay resort to hold talks with MLAs
- 1:30 pm: Sasikala camp submits letter to Governor containing signatures of MLAs who support Palaniswamy
- 2:30 pm: AIADMK MLAs declare that they will stay put at the resort until the Governor meets them
- 3:10 pm: Police stop OPS supporters before they reach Koovathur
- 3:20 pm: Kancheepuram Collector imposes Section 144 in Koovathur
- 4.20 pm: Jayalalithaa’s niece hints at supporting Panneerselvam by saying that the next leader should be someone chosen by the late chief minister
- 4:40 pm: Reports surface that Sasikala may not surrender on Tuesday as she had not yet received a copy of the SC verdict
- 4.50 pm: BJP urges Governor to choose next chief minister based on credibility
- 5.30 pm: Edappadi Palanisamy along with AIADMK legislators meets the governor. He claims the support of 135 MLAs to form government
- 7.15 pm: Rajya Sabha MP V Maitreyan meets Governor on behalf of Panneerselvam
- 7.30 pm: Governor meets with DGP TK Rajendran and Chennai city Commissioner of Police S George to take stock of the law and order situation in the state
- 9.30 pm: Deepa Jayakumar and Panneerselvam declare an alliance at MGR memorial
- 9.35 pm: Sasikala leaves the Golden Bay resort in Koovathur.