Is former Chief Minister Jayalalitha not an accused? Does Annamalai’s speech hold any truth?

What was the final verdict given in the former chief minister's disproportionate asset case?


The late former chief minister J. JAYALALITHA has been accused in various cases including corruption charges and disproportionate assets cases. Recently, the current BJP state president, Annamalai, said in an interview to an English daily, “the former chief minister was convicted in a corruption case and was prisoned”. This news started to spread virally on social media and made the party workers enraged.

The party workers of AIDMK got instigated due to Annamalai’s public speech that had the intention of tarnishing the reputation of their late leader. So, they condemned it by passing a resolution against BJP state president, Annamalai.

What is the reason for the sudden controversy about Jayalalitha?

In a recent interview given to the Times of India on June 12 by BJP state president, Annamalai, when asked by the reporters, “Would you agree that 1991-96 was the worst period in terms of corruption?”, he said that many administrations in TN were corrupt. “Former CMs have been convicted in courts of law. That is why TN becomes one of the most corrupt states. I would say it is number one in corruption”, he added. He mentioned that during the period from 1991-1996, corruption was seen in various departments of Tamil Nadu.

Let’s see if Annamalai’s statements are true.

Jayalalitha’s tenure as Chief minister from 1991-1996 was severely criticized. The one major incident to recall was the lavish marriage of her adopted son Sudhakaran (son of VK Sasikala’s sister Vanitha Mani)

In this period, on June 14, 1996, Subramanian Swamy, who was the leader of the Janata Party, filed a complaint against Jayalalitha, alleging that she misused her power and accumulated wealth.

Following this, in 1996, there was a raid from 7th -12th December, where several items including silver worth Rs 48,80,800, gold and diamond weighing around 7040 grams, shoes worth Rs 92,44,290 and watches worth Rs 15,90,350 were seized by the Enforcement Department. The complete details regarding this are clearly mentioned on page number 94 of the document issued by the Supreme Court.

A chargesheet was filed against the late former chief minister Jayalalitha in 1997 in connection with the raid and a separate court was set up to enquire the case. Also, in the chargesheet, it has been mentioned that she amassed properties worth Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate assets to her income.

The Supreme Court accepted the petition filed by the DMK leader K Anbazhagan and transferred the case to Bangalore, saying that if the AIADMK comes to power again in 2001, there would be a problem in conducting a free and fair trial.

Amid great anticipation of Jayalalitha’s disproportionate assets case, which has been dragged on for 18 years since 1996, Justice John Michael D’ Cunha delivered a historic verdict on September 27, 2014.

In his 1136-page judgement, it is stated that “Jayalalitha, Sasikala, Sudhakaran, and Ilavarasi will be sentenced to 4 years of prison. It is said on page number 907 that, Jayalalitha will be fined Rs 100 crore and the other three will be fined Rs 10 crore each. After this verdict, Jayalalitha was imprisoned in Parappana Agrahara Jail.

This was the first time in India that a Chief minister has been convicted on corruption charges and lost her post as a result of the verdict. This gained attention across the nation. Later, on 17 October 2014, the Supreme Court accepted her pleas and granted bail.

Subsequently, Justice Kumaraswamy was appointed to hear the appeal filed by them and the trial of the case commenced on 5 January 2015. At the end of the trial, on 11 May 2015, Justice Kumaraswamy delivered a 919-page judgement which said that the disproportionate asset is less than 10% of income and is within the permissible limit. Therefore, the accused are entitled to acquittal from all the charges by the Karnataka High Court.

The Page No. 914 of the judgement states that, “The Prosecution has mixed up 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/-. If we remove the exaggerated value of cost of construction and marriage expenses, the assets will work out at Rs.37,59,02,466/-. The total income of the Accused, firms and companies is Rs.34,76,65,654/-. Lack of proportion amount is Rs.2,82,36,812/-. The percentage of disproportionate assets is 8.12%. It is relatively small. In the instant case, the disproportionate asset is less than 10% and it is within permissible limit. Therefore, Accused are entitled for acquittal. When the principal Accused has been acquitted, the other Accused, who have played a lesser role are also entitled for acquittal.”

The former Chief Minister Jayalalitha died on December 5, 2016, due to ill health. Later, on February 14, 2017, a bench of the Supreme Court comprising Judges Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Amitava Roy delivered its final judgement declaring Sasikala, Ilavarasi and Sudhakaran guilty. Accordingly, the three of them were sentenced to 4 years in prison and fined 10 crore each.

The document released by the Supreme Court in connection with the case says, “A1 to A4 (Jayalalitha, Sasikala, Ilavarasi and Sudhakaran) have entered into a conspiracy and in furtherance of the same, A1 who was a public servant at the relevant time had come into possession of assets disproportionate to the known sources of her income during the check period and had got the same dispersed in the names of A2 to A4 and the firms & companies involved to hold these on her behalf with a masked front. Furthermore, the the charge of abetment laid against A2 to A4 in the commission of the offence by A1 also stands proved.”

The appeals against Jayalalitha were dismissed as she died on December 5, 2016. In the final judgement, the court ordered the other three accused to surrender immediately.

Again, all the Jayalalitha cases became the talk of the town in 2019, because a case was filed against the construction of a memorial for her at Marina beach. In this regard, M.L. Ravi, the leader of the Desiya Makkal Sakthi Katchi, filed a petition in the Madras High Court saying that it is immoral to build a memorial on people’s tax money for a person who is convicted by the court.

The bench comprising the judges namely, M. Sathyanarayanan, P. Rajamanikam who heard the case, dismissed the petition appealed on January 23, 2019. Further, in this case, the verdict states that “the stigma of conviction against her got erased/wiped out, which have not been set aside by the Hon’ble Apex Court merits for the reason that before the Court on m orders could be pronounced, she died. Therefore, it cannot be said that Selvi J.Jayalalitha is a convicted person and as such, there is stigma of conviction attached to her.”

Jayalalitha would have been punished if she was alive. The fact that the criminal charges committed against her have been proven, she is found guilty. However, she died before the final verdict.

Is death an instrument of sanctification?

Annamalai did not receive such backlash even when he was spreading lies and rumours, unfortunately, he was trapped by telling the truth.

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