After eight months in limbo, AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa’s political life was resurrected in a matter of a few minutes on Monday.
The Karnataka High Court acquitted her and three others in the disproportionate assets case, setting aside a trial court order of September 2014 sentencing them to four years in prison.
The packed Court Hall No. 14 witnessed jubilant scenes when Justice C.R. Kumaraswamy announced that the appeals of Ms. Jayalalithaa and her associates — V. Sasikalaa, V.N. Sudhakaran and Ilavarasi — were being allowed, and they stood acquitted of the charges of amassing wealth disproportionate to the known sources of their income.
The proceedings lasted just five minutes as the judge chose to read out the operative portion of the order.
In his 919-page judgment, Mr. Justice Kumaraswamy said the prosecution had failed to prove the conspiracy.
He recalculated the income and expenditure of the accused during 1991-96 and said the additional assets they possessed exceeded their known income by just 8.12 per cent.
Citing a Supreme Court judgment in the Krishnanand Agnihotri case, he said that when the ‘disproportionate asset’ was less than 10 per cent, the accused were entitled to acquittal.
“...the prosecution has mixed up the assets of accused, firms and companies and also added the cost of construction i.e., Rs. 27,79,88,945 and marriage expenses at Rs.6,45,04,222/- and valued the assets at Rs. 66,44,73,573,” the order said.
Also, the High Court criticised the trial court for not including the loans availed of by the accused during 1991-96 as part of their income.
It also said due importance was not given to the evidential value of records such as Income Tax rulings.
“The Trial Court has not appreciated the evidence in a proper perspective,” Mr. Justice Kumaraswamy said.
He also said the fact that all the accused resided together at Ms. Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden home did not prove any conspiracy.
When the judge got down from the podium, AIADMK lawyers erupted in joy and raised slogans hailing their leader.
DMK in disbelief
In contrast, the prosecution team and those representing DMK general secretary K. Anbazhagan were in disbelief.
In consequence, it would be a sort of a political resurrection for Ms. Jayalalithaa, whose disqualification under the Representation of People Act stands negated by the High Court findings.
This paves the way for her return as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, as it is possible for her to hold the position for six months without being an MLA.
The clinching argument
The value of disproportionate assets was Rs. 2.82 crore and this value was not enough to convict them on charges of corruption, said Justice C.R. Kumaraswamy in his verdict while disagreeing with the verdict of the Special Court, which had computed the value of DA at Rs. 53.6 crore.
How DA account for less than 10% of total income?
- Vigilance probe’s findings: Construction costs: Rs.27,79,88, 945 Marriage expenses: Rs.6,25,04,222
- High Court’s findings: Construction costs: Rs.5,10,54,060 Marriage expenses: Rs.28,68,000
- Exaggerated value: Construction costs: Rs.2,69,34,885 Marriage expenses: Rs.6,16,36,222
- Total assets: Vigilance estimate - Exaggerated value Rs. 37,59,02,466
- Disproportionate assets: Total assets - Total income
- Rs.37,59,02,466-Rs.34,76,65,654 = Rs.2,82,36,812
- Rs.2,82,36,812 x 100/Rs.34,76,65,654=
The Hindu Editorial
- > A sensational comeback It is an unusual feat for any politician in the country to regain her eligibility to hold the post after being unseated twice as Chief Minister.