Acquiring assets “per se” is not a crime unless the sources are found to be illegal, the Supreme Court today said while Karnataka maintained that the High Court order acquitting Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in the assets case is “perverse”.
In an unusual hearing during summer break, a vacation bench comprising Justices P C Ghose and Amitava Roy said that the disproportionate assets “per se is not a crime” and “it’s a crime only if source of money is found to be illegal”.
The apex court, which generally takes up urgent matters during the vacation, had decided to hear the final arguments in the high-profile case after counsel for both sides had agreed to appear during this period.
The court, during the hearing, outlined the three options available to it and said it may either uphold the High court verdict or reverse it or re-appreciate the entire evidence which may lead to fresh re-trial or it can also remand the matter to the High court for fresh consideration.
The observation came when senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for Karnataka, described the High Court judgment as “perverse beyond imagination”, devoid of reasoning and based on “conjectures and surmises”.
The bench, hearing appeals filed by Karnataka government and DMK leader K Anbazhagan against the AIADMK leader who has come back to the power in the state last month, asked the state about the evidence to establish that money, allegedly circulated among various accused, belonged to the Chief Minister.
It also asked about the evidence showing that the sources of the money in question was illegal.
Dave, assailing the verdict, said, “The judgement of the High Court reflects violent miscarriage of justice and it is perverse beyond imagination. It is based on mere surmises and conjectures and none of the findings are based on evidence.”
He also assailed the observation made by the High Court that there was a culture of giving gifts in Tamil Nadu.
“There is no need for such an observation. Every politician, who is involved in corruption cases, will then go scot free. This court has been saying that there was a need to cleanse the system and the corruption should be dealt with iron hands,” the senior lawyer said.
The approach of the High Court defied Parliamentary laws on corruption. The appellate courts cannot substitute the logical conclusions of trial courts without dealing with them, he said.
“Not a word in the judgement (of the High Court) says that the trial court judgement is perverse and not based on evidence,” he said, adding that there were “glaring mistakes” in the verdict which cannot be “sustained in the eyes of law”.