New Delhi: Quashing the Karnataka High Court verdict, the Supreme Court on Tuesday convicted AIADMK General Secretary Sasikala Natrajan in the 19-year-old disproportionate assets case that also involved late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
She has been sentenced to four years in jail. The court asked her to surrender immediately.
The SC, however, abated the appeal proceedings against J Jayalalithaa owing to her death on December 5 last.
The apex court restored in toto the judgement and the findings of the trial court in Bengaluru which had held guilty all the accused including Sasikala’s two relatives, V N Sudhakaran and Elavarasi.
The two-judge bench comprising Justices P C Ghose and Amitava Roy directed Sasikala and the two relatives to surrender forthwith to the trial court in Bengaluru and serve the remaining part of four year jail term.
Sasikala was earlier acquitted in the assets case by the Karnataka High Court.
Sasikala was fighting a bitter power battle with interim Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam after the demise of J Jayalithaa. Now, the verdict disqualifies Sasikala from becoming a legislator, and consequentially she can’t be chief minister either.
The bench read the operative portion of the voluminous judgement saying that “according to the materials and evidence place on record, we set aside the judgement and the order of the high court and affirm in toto the judgement and order the trial court convicting the accused persons”.
The bench said since Jayalalithaa has expired, the proceeding against her is abated.
“Nevertheless, we reiterate that having regard to the facts, the charge framed against them by the trial court is restored,” the bench said.
“Since the charges framed by the trial court have been restored against all of them they will surrender forthwith before the trial court and serve the remaining part of the sentence,” the bench said.
The trial court had sentenced Sasikala and her two relatives to four years imprisonment with a fine of Rs 10 crore each. Jayalalithaa was sentenced to four years with a fine of Rs 100 crore.
In a separate but concurring judgement, Justice Amitava Roy said, “We have expressed deep concern about escalating menace of corruption in society.”
On June 7 last year, the apex court had reserved its verdict in the case after hearing detailed arguments from all the parties including the Karnataka government.
On July 27, 2015, the apex court had issued notices on Karnataka government’s appeal seeking stay of the high court judgement to Jayalalithaa, Sasikala and her relatives.
The Karnataka HC had on May 11, 2015 ruled that Jayalalithaa’s conviction by special court suffered from infirmity and was not sustainable in law, clearing decks for her return as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister.
The special court had in 2014 held Jayalalithaa guilty of corruption and sentenced her to four years imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 100 crore.
Soon after the verdict, AIADMK has tweeted, “Sasikala has always taken Jayalalithaa’s burden on her; she has done it again. Dharma will prevail.”
Hundreds of policemen deployed at Koovathur resort where Sasikala is staying since last night.
Politician Subramaniam Swamy had filed a complaint against late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, popularly known as Amma, in 1996 accusing her of allegedly amassing disproportionate asserts to the tune of Rs 66.65 crore during her first term as chief minister from 1991 to 1996.
Besides Jayalalithaa, three others — her companion of several decades Sasikala, her sister-in-law Elavarasi and nephew VN Sudhakaran (who Jayalalithaa had adopted as her own son) — were also accused of stashing away property, gold, silver and other items.
During raids on the premises of Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence in Chennai, 800 kg silver, 28 kg gold, 750 pairs of shoes, 10,500 sarees and 91 watches were seized. Apart of these confiscated items, a fleet of luxury cars and properties were linked to Jayalalithaa, while her accomplices were accused of abetting her crime by acting as benami owners of 32 private firms. The lavish arrangements at Jayalalithaa’s foster son’s wedding, on which several crores of rupees were spent, had also drawn the attention of her political rivals and the public.
(With PTI inputs)