DISPROPORTIOTE ASSETS CASE
* Apex court sets aside Kartaka HC’s acquittal, restores in full trial court’s verdict, case against Late J Jayalalitha declared ‘abated’
* VK Sasikala convicted along with 2 relatives, ordered to surrender immediately for 4-year jail term, fined Rs 10 crore, cannot contest elections for 10 years
* ‘We have expressed deep concern about escalating mece of corruption in society,’ said SC judges in their 570-page judgment
New Delhi, Feb 14: In a major setback for AIADMK General Secretary V.K. Sasikala, who was aspiring to be the Tamil du Chief Minister, the Supreme Court on Tuesday restored her conviction and four year jail sentence in a disproportiote assets case.
Restoring the September 27, 2014 judgment of the trial court convicting and sentencing her and her two relatives – V.N. Sudhakaran and J. Elavarasi, a bench of Justice Piki Chandra Ghose and Justice Amitava Roy set aside the May 11, 2015 Kartaka High Court order acquitting the three and late Tamil du Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa.
The immediate fallout of the top court verdict is that Sasikala is out of the electoral field for 10 years – four years in incarceration and six years of disqualification under the Representation of Peoples Act after her release.
The four, Jayalalithaa included, were convicted for amassing assets disproportiote to known sources of income to the tune of Rs 66.65 crore when the former Chief Minister ruled Tamil du in 1991-96.
Restoring the conviction and sentencing by the trial court in “full including the consequential directions”, the bench ordered the trial court to take” immediate steps to ensure” that Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Elavarasi “serve out the remainder of sentence awarded them and take further steps in compliance of this judgment…”
The court said that the three would surrender before the trial court “forthwith”.
Speaking for the bench, Justice Ghose commended the trial court for being “meticulous, sensitive, vigilant and judicious in appraisal …” and that “we are of the unhesitant opinion” that the High Court judgment and order “suffers from manifest errors on the face of the record, both on facts and in law and is liable to be set-aside”.
Justice Roy, in a concurring judgment, expressed deep concern over the “escalating mece of corruption in society”.
The court said that every transaction that was taking place was in the know of each one of them living under the same address.
“The unimpeded, frequent and spontaneous inflow of funds” from the account of Jayalalithaa to those of the “other co-accused and the firms/companies involved, overwhelmingly demonstrate” their “collective culpable involvement” in the transactions … “the same to be masked banking exchanges though involving several accounts but mostly of the same bank”, the court said.
It rejecting the argument that trial suffered from “unfairness and non-transparency”.
“True that in course of the investigation, some documents had been seized which were not adduced in evidence being construed to be irrelevant for substantiating the charge, but it did not certainly tantamount to suppression thereof so as to afflict the trial with the vice of unfairness and non-transparency as alleged,” the court said.
It also rejected the “off repeated grievance” of the accused that the trial court had left out of consideration material pieces of evidence brought by it, saying “suffice it to state that the decision rendered by it proclaim to the contrary”.
“In all the aspects amongst others income, expenditure and assets, the judgment of the trial court reveals on a plain reading that the evidence adduced by the defence as construed to be relevant had not only been taken note of but also alysed and applied for arriving at the conclusions on the issues pertaining to the adjudication,” it said in its 570-page judgment.
Upholding the trial court directing confiscation of the movable and immovable assets of the accused, as well of properties of six companies owned by the accused, to recover the fine imposed on them, the top court: “In our comprehension, the course adopted by the trial court cannot be faulted with.”
“We are of the opinion that the order of confiscation/forfeiture of the properties standing in the me of six companies, as involved, made by the trial court is unexceptioble.”
The top court verdict came on an appeal of the Kartaka government that had challenged the state High Court verdict acquitting Jayalalithaa, Sasikala and the two in the case relating to amassing disproportiote assets to the tune of Rs 66.65 crore during Jayalalithaa’s first term as Chief Minister (1991-1996).