New Delhi: Dashing the aspirations of the newly-elected AIADMK General Secretary Sasikala Natarajan (60) aka V K Sasikala to be the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, the Supreme Court on Tuesday restored her conviction, along with two relatives, for the criminal conspiracy of laundering the disproportionate assets (DA) of her boss and chief minister J Jayalalithaa who died in December after long hospitalisation.
In a 547-page-long judgment, with a five-page supplement on the illicit amassing of vast assets and escalating menace of corruption in society, the Bench of Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Amitava Roy restored the trial court’s verdict on September 27, 2014, convicting and sentencing Jayalalithaa, Sasikala and her relatives V N Sudhakaran and Elavarasi to four years.
Even while recording that the inextricable nexus of Jayalalithaa with these three has been established, the Bench said the appeals against her stand abated since she has already died. Her conviction would have also followed but for her death. Sasikala was her live-in aide for years and it was on her request that Jayalalithaa had allowed her two relatives also to live in her house.
The immediate fallout of the Apex Court”s axe on the 60-year-old Sasikala is that she is out of the electoral field for the next ten years because of the incarceration for four years and the next six years of disqualification under the Representation of People’s Act after her release.
It was the money illicitly amassed by Jayalalithaa as the CM that was invested in various companies through Sasikala and her two relatives. “The flow of money from one account to the other proves that there existed active conspiracy to launder the ill-gotten wealth of A1 (Jayalalithaa) for purchasing properties in the names of the firms,” the Bench observed.
The Court also noted that all their firms and companies were operating from Jayalalithaa”s residence even though she had feigned ignorance about their activities. “They were residing with A1 (Jayalalithaa) without any blood relation between them.”
It also rejected claim of Sasikala and the two others to have independent sources of income, pointing out that “acquisition of large tracts of land out of funds provided by A1 (Jayalalithaa) indicate that, all the accused congregated in her house neither for social living nor she allowed them free accommodation out of humanitarian concern, rather the facts and circumstances proved in evidence undoubtedly point out that the three were accommodated in her house pursuant to the criminal conspiracy hatched by them to hold her assets.”
Justice Ghose penned the judgment that was reserved by the Bench after completing nearly four months of hearing on June 7 while Justice Roy wrote the supplement while fully agreeing with the main judgment. The Karnataka Government had come in appeal against the High Court ruling on May 11, 2015, acquitting the late Jayalalithaa, Sasikala and her two relatives.
Restoring the trial court judgment “in full including consequent directions,” the Bench asked Sasikala and two others would to surrender before the trial court in Bengaluru forthwith and serve out the remainder of sentence awarded to them.
The trial court had convicted and sentenced them as also Jayalalithaa to four years of jail term for amassing disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs 66.65 crores during her first term as Chief Minister from 1991 to 1996.
The Supreme Court set aside the High Court order as “untenable” and held that the percentage of disproportionate assets as 8.12% as computed by the High Court is “based on completely wrong reading of evidence on record, compounded by incorrect arithmetical calculations.”
It ruled that “it is inessential to resort to any arithmetic to compute the percentage…in view of the regnant evidence on record, unassailably proving the disproportionatenes of the assets as contemplated in Section 13(1)(e) of 1988 Act (Prevention of Corruption Act).”