A special bench of the Karnataka High Court on Monday acquitted former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa of all charges in the 18-year-old disproportionate assets (DA) case, thus paving the way for her return to the seat of power.
Justice C R Kumaraswamy in his order said that the earlier order passed by the sessions judge has been set aside and that all four appellants have been acquitted of all charges leveled against them. Subramanian Swamy, the complainant, has however said that he would file an appeal in the Supreme Court very soon.
Jayalalithaa, along with three other accused – Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Illavarasi – had appealed against the CBI Special Court Judge Michael D’Cunha’s September 27, 2014, verdict sentencing them to four years in jail and imposing a fine of R100 crore on Jayalalithaa and R10 crore each on the rest of them.
The Karnataka High Court judge in his order stated, “Taking into consideration of overall circumstances and material placed on record, in my view, the judgment and finding recorded by the trial court suffers from infirmity and it is not sustainable in law. The judge also ordered for releasing her seized property.”
In 1997, Jayalalithaa was accused of amassing assets disproportionate to her known sources amounting to R66.65 crore and a case was filed under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Jayalalithaa, reacting to the verdict, on Monday said it has proved that she did no wrong and vowed to continue to work for the welfare of people of Tamil Nadu. “Today’s verdict gives me immense satisfaction; this has removed the slander imposed on me; this has erased the blame put on me by political enemies,” she said in her first reaction after her acquittal.
“It has confirmed that I have done no wrong; this verdict is a boon granted by God for the prayers of Tamil Nadu people after the verdict of the lower court,” she said. “I don’t consider it as a personal victory – justice has been established, dharma has won with this verdict; conspiracies always may win temporarily, however final victory is for dharma and honesty.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted Jayalalithaa. “Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Puratchi Thalaivi (Revolutionary Leader) Amma and extended his greetings,” an AIADMK release said.
Soon after the judgement, Jayalalithaa’s supporters broke into celebrations across Tamil Nadu and outside the court hall in Bengaluru. They distributed sweets and burst fire crackers.
B V Acharya, special public prosecutor appointed by the Karnataka government in the case, speaking to a television channel, said, “The prosecution has submitted satisfactory written evidence to prove the charges against all the accused and the evidence mainly consisted of documents. A trial judge discussed the evidence in great detail and recorded a judgment of conviction.”
Earlier, the Karnataka police had made special security arrangements in view of the judgment.
Overall, 3,000 policemen had been deployed across Bengaluru to prevent any untoward incident.
Jayalalithaa’s acquittal has come as a much-needed relief for the Tamil Nadu government and the corporates as well as, especially when the state has been preparing of its first-ever Global Investor Meet, postponed for September, ostensibly anticipating her acquittal from the case.
In the absence of Jayalalithaa, the caretaker chief minister O Pannerselvam was not keen on taking crucial policy decisions.
Meanwhile, sources said that Amma will be sworn-in anytime soon. With Jayalalithaa back at the helm, sources in the government said that development agenda could be fast-tracked.
DMK president M Karunanidhi, however, said this was not the final verdict. “What has been pronounced today is not the final verdict. I would like to remind one and all about Mahatma Gandhi’s saying there is a court above all courts and that is conscience,” he said.