Bangalore, September 27, 2014
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was on Saturday convicted by a special court in Bangalore in an 18-year-old corruption case and sentenced to four years in prison, asked to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore and barred from contesting elections for 10 years.
Jayalalithaa convicted in disproportionate assets case
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was today convicted by a special court in Bangalore in an 18-year-old corruption case and sentenced to four years in prison, asked to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore and barred from contesting elections for 10 years.
The verdict also means that Jayalalithaa, 66, a film star-turned-politician, will be disqualified as a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly and cease to be Chief Minister of the state, and her party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIDMK), will have to choose a successor to her.
Jayalalithaa and three co-accused persons were accused by the prosecution of amassing assets valued at Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate to their known sources of income from 1991-96 during her first term in office.
Prosecution lawyers told waiting newspersons outside the special court that the judge had sentenced the co-accused -- her close aide Sasikala Natarajan, Sasikala's nephew Sudharakan, who is Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son, and Sasikala's close relative Ilavarasi -- were also sentenced to four years in prison and fined Rs 10 crore each.
The verdict left AIADMK supporters stunned and hundreds of them gathered outside her Poes Garden residence in Chennai, where emotional scenes were witnessed, even as there were reports of stray incidents of violence in the city and different parts of the state.
Trial court judge John Michael D'Cunha pronounced his verdict in the special court in the Central Jail at Parapanna Agrahara in south Bangalore. The court had reached its verdict earlier in the day and heard arguments from both sides on the quantum of sentence shortly afterwards. The entire process lasted till late in the evening, after which Jayalalithaa was taken into custody and sent for a medical check-up.
Her lawyers had pleaded for the minimum sentence of one year for her, in view of various ailments she is suffering from, while the prosecution wanted her to be given the maximum sentence of seven years.
The verdict also means that she stands disqualified as a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly and cease to be Chief Minister of the state with immediate effect and her party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIDMK), will have to choose a successor without any delay.
The fact that she was sentenced to more than three years of imprisonment meant that she could not appeal for bail to the special court and would have to now approach the Karnataka High Court in this regard.
Jayalalithaa will be kept in the Bangalore jail because the case was tried and the verdict pronounced here, the lawyers explained. She had spent a few days in prison after a first information report (FIR) had been filed in the case in 1996.
Bangalore Police had made elaborate security arrangements around the jail and imposed prohibitory orders banning the assembly of five or more people in a radius of one km around the complex.
Jayalalithaa flew in to Bangalore from Chennai this morning by a special aircraft along along with Sasikala. Several of her Cabinet colleagues and senior leaders of the AIADMK were present in and around the court when the verdict was dlivered.
The case was filed in 1997 by the Tamil Nadu government's Department of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) during the tenure of Jayalalithaa's rival and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader M Karunanidhi as Chief Minister.
The Supreme Court ordered the case to be transferred to a special court in Bangalore in 2003 on a petition filed by DMK leader K Anbazhagan, who had expressed doubts about a fair trial in Tamil Nadu after Jayalalithaa returned as Chief Minister.
In 2001, she had to step down as Chief Minister soon after being sworn in after the Supreme Court declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing her to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case.
One of her colleagues, O Paneerselvan, took her place. She was cleared of all charges in 2002 and returned as Chief Minister.
The prosecution had alleged that Jayalalithaa had just Rs 3 crore when she took over as Chief Minister for the first time in 1991 and had taken a token salary of just Re 1, but her wealth and that of her three co-accused had grown to Rs 66.6 crore during her five years in office, vastly disproportionate to her known sources of income.
The alleged wealth included 2000 acres of land, 30 kg of gold and thousands of sarees. She was also accused of spending more than Rs 5 crore on her foster son's wedding in 1996, though she had claimed that the expenditure was borne by the bride's family.
The prosecution lawyers said today that the court had held that the prosecution had been able to prove that she possessed disproportionate assets of about Rs 53 crore. They said the fine was imposed as per provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in such matters.
They said that the fine would be realised from the assets that had been seized earlier by the DVAC.
Jayalalithaa had all along maintained that the case was an act of political vendetta by the DMK. Among other things, she had agued that her previous assets were undervalued, her property was overvalued and her income from various sources were not taken into account.
In 2011, Jayalalithaa had appeared in the Bangalore court for four days to answer more than 1390 questions posed by the judge.
In the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year, the AIADMK had made a near clean sweep in Tamil Nadu, winning 37 of the 39 seats from the state.
Yesterday, theSupreme Court had rejected a petition by a lawyer who wanted the verdict to be deferred on the grounds that it would lead to law and order problems.
Later in the evening, Tamil Nadu Governor K Rosaiah called State Chief Secretary Mohan Verghese Chunkat, Director General of Police K Ramanujam and Chennai Police Commissioner S George and reviewed the law and order situation in the state.
The officers apprised Mr Rosaiah of the measures taken to prevent the spread of untoward incidents in the state.
The Governor instructed the officers to prevent any further incidents and ensure that law and order is maintained.
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