New Delhi: VK Sasikala has been convicted by the Supreme Court and sentenced to four years in jail in the 20-year-old disproportionate assets case, dashing her plans to become the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
The conviction effectively means she will be debarred from contesting elections for 10 years – six years after having served a jail term for four years.
The Supreme Court bench of Justice Amitava Roy and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose delivered separate concurring verdicts but abated proceedings against late CM Jayalalithaa since she is no more.
The SC in effect has upheld in toto a trial court verdict that convicted all the accused, which, however, was overturned by the Karnataka High Court later.
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The much awaited SC judgment brings curtains down on her ambitions to become the chief minister in place of Jayalalithaa, who had passed away last year.
The verdict in effect clears decks for her estranged colleague and ‘caretaker’ chief minister O Panneerselvam, who had raised the banner of rebellion last week, to become the “full” CM of the state.
State’s acting Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao’s delay in inviting Sasikala – who has been elected as the AIADMK legislative party leader – to be sworn in as the CM had been criticised by many, including BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.
All eyes are now on the Governor who is expected to announce his decision soon. However, with Sasikala getting convicted under the Representation of the People Act that debars her from holding any Constitutional posts for 10 years, inviting Panneerselvam to be the chief minister and prove his majority on the floor of the house seems to be the natural choice left for the Governor.
BV Acharya, who had pursued the case for decades as the chief public prosecutor, told News18 that justice has finally been done.
“It also shows how strong and independent our judiciary is. We should be proud of it,” he said.
Acharya said the acquittal of Jayalalithaa and Sasikala was faulty and bordered on “mathematical error.” What he was talking about was the High Court observation in May 2015 that the accused were entitled to acquittal as the quantum of disproportionate assets was not more than 10 percent.
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Challenging the verdict, Karnataka had said that the mathematical and totalling errors in the judgment led to the acquittal adding that on revaluation, disproportionate assets will go up from 8 percent to 76 percent.
The court could also take over the properties in question and hear legal claims to such properties and grant them compensation in lieu of such properties.
Sasikala belongs to Mannargudi town of Tamil Nadu. She became friends with Jayalalithaa, then a successful film star and a rising politician, in 1976. She owned a video parlour then and began recording Jayalalithaa’s political engagements and speeches. Soon, she started accompanying Jayalalithaa to all social and political events.
She was one of the few supporters left with Jayalalithaa when the latter was insulted at political mentor and superstar MG Ramachandran’s funeral in 1987. Soon, she moved in with Jayalalithaa to help run her Poes Garden residence.
Sasikala’s husband and other relatives followed. Sasikala’s nephew Sudhakaran soon became Jayalalithaa’s foster son.
After Jayalalithaa’s death, the party overnight elevated her to the post of AIADMK General Secretary. A week later, CM Panneerselvam tendered in his resignation, and the AIADMK MLAs selected her as the legislative party leader.
Ever since there has been a pitched battle happening in Chennai with Sasikala camp squirrelling away 129 MLAs to a resort near Chennai, where, according to Panneerselvam camp they have been held captive.
However, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs have been joining Panneerselvam camp on a daily basis, and a few MLAs too have now joined in. That trickle could soon be a torrent as Sasikala’s political hopes are now dashed.