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A saga without an end in TN

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PTI Photo by R Senthil Kumar B)

Law is made for powerful women to violate which is why Chinnamma (V.N.Sasikala) will never replace Amma (Jayalalithaa) as chief minister of Tamil Nadu despite some Tamilians willing to burn themselves for her. This time, there will be no ordinance issued by the Governor to prevent Chinnamma from going to jail unlike the one issued on January 21, 2017, to overturn the Supreme Court ban on Jallikattu, an ancient bull-taming sport which is cruel and barbaric.

But despite the Supreme Court verdict dashing her hopes of becoming chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Chinnamma, like Bihar’s Lalu Prasad Yadav before her, ensured the AIADMK would remain firmly in her hands by anointing her nephew T.T.V. Dinakaran as the deputy general secretary and her loyalist E. Palaniswami as chief minister. Remember illiterate Rabri Devi who became the first woman chief minister of Bihar on July 25, 1997, when Yadav was jailed in the fodder scam? Chinnamma has imitated him.

This in effect means powerful politicians like Chinnamma can still defeat the law by ensuring their henchmen remain in power while they are in jail. Judges take an oath to uphold the Constitution which allows Chinnamma to select the next chief minister of Tamil Nadu by remote control. The judges cannot prohibit that because the Constitution is silent on this aspect.


And so, Chinamma may remain in jail for a few weeks while her senior lawyers seek a review of the concurring judgments convicting her. They will find it difficult to evolve a strategy to file a review petition which can be filed only on an error apparent on the face of the record. They have to allege a violation of Chinnamma’s rights as an accused. If they fail, her lawyers can file a curative petition. This is a new concept created by the Supreme Court in 2002 which is the last gasp of scoundrel politicians.

If Chinnamma’s lawyers file a curative petition, it has to be sent to the three senior most judges and judges of the bench who passed the judgment convicting her. If the same bench concurs that the matter needs rehearing, then it would be sent to the same bench which can impose “exemplary costs” on Chinnamma if her plea lacks merit. But this is unlikely to happen.

This is because Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose is the sixth seniormost judge of the apex court while Justice Amitava Roy ranks 19th in seniority. Both are products of judicial dynasties with Ghose being the son of a former chief justice of the Calcutta high court and Roy’s father-in-law having retired as a judge from the same court while his brother-in-law continues as a sitting judge there. Ghose and Roy are unlikely to entertain a review petition because their reasoning convicting Chinnamma is excellent.

Chinamma also has to pay a Rs 10 crore fine and serve out the remainder of her four year jail sentence. Her mentor, Amma, who died aged 68, spent only a few days in jail after her arrest a few months after an FIR, was filed in 1996. Amma had assets worth Rs 3 crore when she first became Tamil Nadu’s chief minister in 1991 four years after the death of her cine star mentor M.G. Ramachandran, who founded the AIADMK.

But the assets of Amma, her foster son V N Sudhakaran and J Ilavarasi, a relative of Sasikala, who lived with her, rose to Rs 66.65 crore between 1991 and 1996 when Amma lost the elections. Chinnamma even disowned her husband M. Natarajan to return to Amma’s embrace with Tehelka, perhaps unjustifiably, alleging in 2012 that she had poisoned Amma. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, advocate Mathews J. Nedumpara, president of the National Lawyers Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms said.

The entire saga began in 1997 when the

irrepressible Subramanian Swamy filed a disproportionate assets case against Amma after a worker from the rival DMK lodged a complaint against her.

Amma was convicted by Judge Michael John Cunha in Bengaluru and acquitted by the Karnataka high court with several arithmetical mistakes in the judgment. The Karnataka government appealed to the Supreme Court against her acquittal during which she died in Chennai on December 5, 2016. Her close confidante Chinnamma took over as chief minister.

But Chinnamma was herself an accused in the case filed by Swamy and so with the abatement of the case against Amma, Chinnamma continued to be an accused. The Supreme Court gave her a bitter chocolate on Valentine’s Day by making her serve her remaining term in jail. This has put paid to her hopes of becoming a chief minister.

The writ of the people often runs contrary to the writ of the Constitution which is why some of Amma’s devotees immolated themselves when she was sentenced to jail by Judge Cunha in Bengaluru. Heroine worship is the antithesis of the law which does not discriminate between Amma, Chinnamma or a common thief. This is why our courts succeed in delivering justice – sometimes.

 

The author holds a PhD in Media Law.

He is a journalist-cum-lawyer of the Bombay High Court

  • venkat

    Hope there is a good end this distasteful saga!