The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a review petition filed by the Karnataka Government against its (court’s) earlier order to abate proceedings against J Jayalalithaa, the former chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
This, in effect, means that the Rs 100 crore penalty imposed on Jayalalithaa in the disproportionate assets case cannot be recovered.
The SC order in the DA case, that has gone through various trial phases over the last 20 years, was finally pronounced on February 14, 2016. In its order, the apex court upheld the conviction of the four persons accused of accumulating assets disproportionate to their known sources of income – J Jayalalithaa, Sasikala Natarajan, V N Sudhakaran, and Ilavarasi.
The Karnataka government had argued that the court should not go by the date of pronouncement of order, but rather, the date when the court had reserved the case for orders – in June 2016. At that time, Jayalalithaa was alive and healthy. But this plea has now been dismissed.
The fine amount imposed on the other three convicts is Rs 10 crores each -- recovery of this, of course, will happen.
“It places us in the strange position of having to recover just about 30 crores, when the disproportionate assests are about 53 crores (as finally arrived at by the trial court that convicted her three years back.),” says Sandesh Chowta, one of the main prosecutors in the two-decade long trial.
Abating the case against Jayalalithaa leads to another set back: that the court and prosecutors cannot proceed against her estate or her properties which were judged as having been bought from ill-gotten wealth by corrupt means – the four of them were convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act as well.
While properties owned by the other three can be seized, the bulk of the ‘disproportionate assets’ in question were owned by Jaya.
The assets that had been attached – including gold, silver and some properties – cannot be taken over now (and could be restored to the legal heir). Even renovations to Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence -- where the erstwhile AIADMK General Secretary Sasikala Natarajan was staying after Jayalalithaa’s death – was listed as having been done from ill-gotten wealth.
The other three convicts – Sasikala, Ilavarasi and Sudhakaran – began serving their four year jail-term in February. A week before the SC order came, Sasikala had been appointed as the general secretary of the majority party, and was set to take oath as chief minister of Tamil Nadu, but this could not happen as she was disqualified from holding public office after the conviction.