Owning disproportionate assets per se no crime, says SC in Jaya case

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The disproportionate assets case related to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and others came up before the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The apex court made a very significant observation. It noted that merely having assets which are more than the known sources of income is not an offense as per law.

It laid the onus on the Karnataka government to prove that Jayalalithaa had acquired assets through illegal means, as only then she could be pronounced guilty in the case.

It also raised doubts whether the huge money being talked about actually belonged to the Tamil Nadu CM.

The Karnataka government had challenged the state high court ruling of May 2015 in the Supreme Court. The verdict had acquitted the Tamil Nadu CM in the case.

Jaya was accused of collecting wealth disproportionate to her known sources of income while she was CM from 1991 to 1996.

The state government, along with DMK leader K Anbazhagan and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, pleaded before the apex court that there were enough grounds for holding Jayalalithaa and others guilty in the case as the high court  had “committed error” in computing her assets and all evidence had not been examined in an unbiased manner. It wanted the apex court to annul the High Court’s verdict.

Before the case came up in the Karnataka High Court, a Bangalore trial court in September 2014 had held Jayalalithaa, her close aide Sasikala and two others guilty in the case. They were sentenced to  four years’ jail and even asked to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore.

The verdict had wide ramifications on Jayalalithaa’s political career. She was forced to step down as chief minister.

But later the relief granted to her by the Karnataka High Court enabled her to get back the CM’s chair.

The matter will come up again before the top court on June 7.

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