By now, she must be used to waiting for crucial verdicts. On the eve of the Karnataka High Court verdict on her appeal against conviction for holding unexplained assets worth over Rs. 53 crore, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa will surely be reminded of the day in December 2001 when she awaited a judgment in similar circumstances from the Madras High Court.
At that time, too, she was out of office, barred from electoral contest and unseated from the Chief Minister’s post. She had been convicted in as many as three cases, and the judgment awaited was on her appeal against all three sentences.
Judicial opinion was in her favour then, as on December 4, 2001, she was absolved of all charges by a common order of Justice N. Dinakar, who set aside her conviction in two TANSI land deal cases and one relating to illegalities in permitting the construction of Pleasant Stay Hotel in Kodaikanal. She had been sentenced three years and two years in prison in respect of two TANSI land purchases and a one-year term in the hotel case. The favourable verdict resurrected her political career that was briefly endangered after a landmark Supreme Court judgment struck down Governor Fathima Beevi’s controversial decision to appoint her Chief Minister soon after her party won the 2001 Assembly election even though she could not contest from any seat. She won a by-election and was back as Chief Minister.
Prosecuted several times, mainly in relation to charges that date back to her first regime of 1991-1996, Ms. Jayalalithaa had emerged unscathed at the trial stage in other cases. Luck smiled on her first in June 1999, when a Chennai court discharged her without trial from a case alleging a Rs. 6.50 crore irregularity in the import of coal from Indonesia for TNEB.
In May 2001, she was acquitted by another judge in the Rs. 10.16 crore television procurement case. These judgments were later upheld by the High Court.
On the eve of yet another judgment, she is once again on tenterhooks.