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..
Political ramifications of the judgment
- Opposition parties are counting on an adverse verdict to rebuild their own fortunes in the State.
- The AIADMK vote bank and Ms Jayalalithaa’s hold over the organisations are unlikely to suffer any immediate setback even if the High Court upholds the conviction.
- Political parties such as the DMDK and the PMK might seek to form new alliances and cash in on a possible mood of gloom in the AIADMK camp.
- PMK founder S. Ramadoss has been speaking of an alternative front
- DMDK founder Vijayakant, despite moving close to the DMK, will also seek to project himself as a right alternative.
- VCK leader Thol. Thirumavalavan is talking of cobbling together a front of smaller parties.
- DMK banks on being the most viable alternative to the AIADMK.
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 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’.
The curious case of the SPP
- Former Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy files case alleging Jayalalithaa amassed properties disproportionate to her known sources of income
- Case shifted to Karnataka High Court after DMK cries foul about fairness of trial in Tamil Nadu.
- Karnataka appoints the former Advocate-General B.V. Acharya as Special Public Prosecutor.
- B.V. Acharya expresses inability to continue as SPP, citing pressure from BJP for holding the post of AG (since past 6 months) >read more
- B.V. Acharya quits as SPP after Karnataka accepts his resignation. > Read more
- G. Bhavani Singh appointed as SPP as Acharya quits, citing mental agony over Lokayukta order to probe him. > Read more
- Karnataka issues notification, citing no reasons, withdrawing Bhavani Singh’s appointment as SPP. Singh moves Supreme Court against the withdrawal. > Read more
- SC quashes Karnataka’s notification, reinstates Singh.
- Apex court judge dismisses SPP plea to present seized silver articles of Jayalalithaa’s, says he is trying to cause delay.
- DMK leader K. Anbazhagan moves for Singh’s removal, saying issue of his continuation is still pending. > Read more
- Supreme Court strikes down Singh’s appointment as SPP. > Read more
In line with a direction of the Supreme Court, DMK general secretary K.Anbazhagan filed his written submission with the Karnataka High Court that prayed for confirming the sentence and fine imposed on Ms. Jayalalithaa and three others in the case.
Editorial: The legal position was always clear - that once a case is transferred from one State to another, the transferee State alone is competent to appoint the prosecutor.
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.
With the verdict in the Jayalalithaa wealth case coming up today, Tamil Nadu Congress chief, E.V.K.S. Elangovan opens up to The Hindu on the political scenario in the State and the future of his own party, which was decimated in the Lok Sabha Elections and faced a split in November.