With the Karnataka government appealing to the Supreme Court on Jaya’s disproportionate assets case, will she be done in or still emerge victorious?
By R Ramasubramanian in Chennai
If May 11, 2015, was an important date for 67-year-old Jayalalithaa Jayaram, the empress of Tamil Nadu politics, so was June 1, 2015. On May 11, Justice CR Kumarasami of the Karnataka High Court acquitted Jaya-lalithaa, her close aide Sasikala, Jayalalithaa’s erstwhile foster son Sudhakaran and Sasi-kala’s relative Ilavarasi in the `66.65 crore disproportionate assets case. On June 1, the Karnataka government formally decided to go for an appeal in the Supreme Court (SC). The relief for Jayalalithaa thus became a temporary one.
Though this was expected, the formal announcement came as a shock and disappointment for the AIADMK. At a time when Amma was preparing to contest the by-election to the Dr Radhakrishnan Nagar assembly in Chennai—the polling is due on June 27 —the Karnataka government’s decision has created discomfort for the AIADMK.
One party member who was watching this news on television in Pudukottai district reportedly died of heart attack. Already, over 250 party men have died either of shock or committed suicide over Amma’s hardships. Though legal pundits say any immediate setback for Jayalalithaa in the SC is highly unlikely, the fact that the case moved there means that a Damocles’ Sword hangs over her head. It is anyone’s guess whether a protracted legal battle awaits her in the highest court of the land.
Legally, things are not looking rosy for Jayalalithaa. While a single judge threw away this 19-year-old case in just two minutes and exonerated Jayalalithaa and three others, he did not do his mathematics well.
A glaring error came to light just a day after the judgment was out. On page 852 of the judgment, 10 items (taken as loan by the accused and their firms/companies) are mentioned and the total loan amount comes to `24,17,31,274. But if one totals these 10 items, the amount comes only ` 10,67,31,274. There is a difference of `13.5 crore.
This is a big sum considering that the cornerstone of Jayalalithaa’s acquittal was the judge’s “finding of sorts” that the difference between shown income and alleged disproportionate income was just `2.82 crore. But BV Acharya, the special public prosecutor, said that the total amount of income and loans taken was shown as `18,17,46,000 when it should have been `4,67,46,000.
If the amount is `4,67,46,000, then the total income correctly calculated comes to `21,26,65,654. But the judge put it as `34,75,65,654 and the percentage of disproportionate assets, which is the difference between total assets (`37,59,02,466) and actual legal income (`21,26,65,654) and the actual legal income multiplied by 100, amounts to 76.76 percent, adds Acharya.
(L-R) Justice CR Kumarasami of the Karnataka High Court; Special Public Prosecutor BV Acharya
The judge had quoted a SC judgment that if a person has accumulated less than 10 percent more wealth to his known sources of income, then it can be condoned. But in this case, the percentage is a whopping 76.76 percentage. In addition, the judge accepted the IT returns as proof of income, oblivious of the 2014 SC judgment in a case which said that mere declaration of IT will not validate disproportionate wealth.
Another controversy was the court’s stoic silence about a money flow-chart furnished by the prosecution, showing that 899 cash deposits were made in several bank accounts and from there, cheques were given to Jayalalithaa\Sasikala, and they, in turn, drew DDs to buy properties.
Almost every purchase was preceded by cash deposits, cheque payments and DD in the name of the seller. But the high court was silent on it.
It may be recalled that during the cheque period from 1991-1996, Jayalalithaa drew a monthly salary of just `1. The then Janata Party president Dr Subramanian Swamy had filed a private complaint against Jayalalithaa, which was later taken over by the DMK government. This is probably one of the unique cases in India’s jurisprudence wherein the prosecution was not allowed to present its arguments adequately.
Twists and Turns
1996 June: Janata Party president Dr Subramanian Swamy files a private complaint against Jayalalithaa for amassing wealth disproportionate to her known sources of income.
Sep 1996: The DMK government takes over the case.
Dec 1996: Jayalalithaa is arrested in another corruption case for allegedly amassing properties worth `66.65 crore.
June 1997: Chargesheet is filed and charges are framed against Jayalalithaa and three others.
Nov 2003: SC transfers the case from Chennai to Bangalore after DMK General Secretary K. Anbazhagan says trial getting derailed due to hostile witnesses. Amma is the CM.
Sept 27, 2014: Special Judge Michael John D Cunha holds Jayalalithaa and three others guilty and awards four-year jail term. He also imposes `100 crore fine on Jayalalithaa and `10 crore fine on the other three.
Oct 17, 2014: SC grants bail to Jayalalithaa and
May 11, 2015: Karnataka High Court acquits Jayalalithaa and three others in the case.
June 1, 2015 June: Karnataka cabinet decides to go for an appeal in SC.
— Compiled by
A SC three-judge bench on April 27, while quashing the appointment of Bhawani Singh as special public prosecutor (SSP) in the case, had ruled that Karnataka was the sole prosecuting agency in the case. Bhawani Singh was appointed by Tamil Nadu. “The SC gave just a day’s time for my submissions and yes, it was error on the part of the apex court in not allowing me to advance my oral arguments, but I am not going to talk on that now,” Acharya told reporters in Bangalore.
Acharya, a legendary figure of the legal fraternity, and called “Bhishma of the Karnataka Bar” was SPP of the case from 2005 to 2012. He was forced to resign after enormous pressure was exerted on him by the then BJP government in the state. He was back in the case on April 27, 2015, when the SC quashed Singh’s appointment, but it was too late.
While things aren’t rosy for Jayalalithaa on the legal front, in the political arena it isn’t so bad. The entire opposition is in shambles. While the main opposition DMK is increasingly becoming an untouchable, the PMK, a partner of the NDA in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, has decided to go it alone in the 2016 assembly elections.
Other major parties like actor-turned-politician Vijayakanth’s DMDK is least interested in cobbling an alliance with the DMK. The Congress, with just 4-5 percent votes in the state, is a non-entity and after the exit of GK Vasan, its strength had further shrunk.
The scattered opposition is no match for Amma and unless a miracle happens, it will be difficult for the opposition to defeat her.
The DMK has boycotted the by-poll and it’s almost certain that Amma is going to have a cakewalk there. And unless SC stays the Karnataka High Court order, it will be Jaya all the way.