New Delhi: The Supreme Court, on February 14, convicted AIADMK general secretary V.K. Sasikala (61) – who has been insisting on being invited to form government in Tamil Nadu — in a 21-year-old corruption case and sentenced her to jail for four years. A bench headed by Justice PC Ghose asked her and two other convicts to surrender forthwith before the trial court.
Coming amid a bitter tussle for power between warring factions of AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, the verdict destroys not only her chances of becoming the Chief Minister but also her political career as she stands disqualified to contest elections for 10 years.
Under the election law, a convicted person cannot contest polls for six years from the date of completion of his/her sentence.
The case launched in 1996 on a complaint by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy (then Janta Party chief) accusing Jayalalithaa, Sasikala and her relatives VN Sudhakaran and Elavarasi of amassing disproportionate asserts worth Rs 66.65 crore during the late AIADMK leader’s first term as Chief Minister (1991-96).
A Bengaluru trial court convicted them on September 27, 2014, and awarded four-year imprisonment. Jayalalithaa was fined Rs 100 crore while the other three accused were imposed a fine of Rs 10 crore each. But the Karnataka HC on May 11, 2015 acquitted them.
Setting aside the Karnataka High Court’s verdict, the top court on February 14 restored “in full” the trial court’s conviction order against them.
“The flow of money from one account to the other proves that there existed active conspiracy to launder the ill-gotten wealth of Jayalalithaa for purchasing properties in the names of the firms,” the bench said in its 563-page verdict.
The criminal conspiracy was hatched at Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence in Chennai, it noted. “The joint residence of all the accused persons also could not be ignored as a factor contributing to the charge of conspiracy and abetment when assessed together with the attendant facts and circumstances reinforcing the said imputations,” it said.
But the top court clarified that the case against Jayalalithaa stood abated after her death.
The convicts — Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Elavarasi — have the option of filing a petition seeking review of the SC verdict.
Swamy – who was present in the court at the time of pronouncement – later told reporters, “This is a huge encouragement for me from the highest court of the land…This judgment shows that it does not matter which party does corruption, the court will take a tough stand against them.”
The other judge on the bench, Justice Amitava Roy, pronounced a concurring verdict in which he expressed serious concern over the menace of corruption in public life.
He described corruption as a “pernicious menace stemming from moral debasement of the culpables”.
The same day Panneerselvam resigned and the governor accepted his resignation. But later he claimed he put in his papers under duress and that majority of AIADMK MLAs supported him but were held hostage by Sasikala.