news Monday, May 11, 2015 - 05:30
In a verdict which will resurrect Jayalalithaa’s political career, the Karnataka High Court has acquitted all accused in the Disproportionate Assets case. The court was hearing an appeal filed by the four accused who were convicted by a special court in Bengaluru in September 2014. The Karnataka High Court’s Special Vacation Single Bench of Justice CR Kumaraswamy pronounced the judgement, saying only in two sentences that all four accused have been acquitted. Supporters of Jayalalithaa have drawn a collective sigh of relief, and ecstatic celebrations have begun outside her residence in Poes Garden in Chennai, and among AIADMK party loyalists across Tamil Nadu. Judge Kumaraswamy has not given any reason for the acquittal. He added that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges against the appellants whose source of income has clearly been established. The verdict has come as a welcome sign for the TN government which has been in limbo ever since the conviction last September. Jayalalithaa's counsel B Kumar has said "There is no impediment for Jayalalithaa to become Chief Minister. I am elated and happy. This is a great victory for us." Read- Jayalalithaa's first reaction- I have emerged as gold refined by fire.  He said that they had always maintained that the prosecution had inflated the income while reducing the expenditure. There is no discussion yet on the Legislature party meeting. O Paneerselvam, the current chief minister, is expected to submit his resignation later today.  Members of the party are waiting for Jayalalithaa to decide. Television channel Jaya TV will be getting ready for her swearing-in this week, according to our reporter. Subramanian Swamy, whose complaint is the basis of the case, told The News Minute, "I am shocked at the verdict." The BJP leader also said that "I cannot imagine any argument on the basis of which Jayalalithaa has been acquitted." He says that he will wait to read the judgment and decide on a course of action after that. "Whatever i do will be after August," he says.  On September 27, 2014, Justice John Michael D’Cunha had convicted the then chief minister and three others in the disproportionate assets case. Having been sentenced to four years in jail and a fine of Rs 100 crore, her conviction immediately disqualified Jayalalithaa as an MLA, rendering the state without a chief minister, till O Paneerselvam took over.  After 21 days in a Bengaluru’s Parapana Agrahara jail, Jayalalithaa was given bail by the Supreme Court. Following this, the four accused filed appeals in the High Court challenging the conviction. Following orders by the SC to close the appeals case within three months, Justice Kumaraswamy of the Karnataka High Court was appointed to hear the appeals case on a day-to-day basis. AIADMK suppporters outside J Jayalalithaa's house in Poes Garden, Chennai, before the verdict was due to be pronounced by the Karnataka High Court in Bengaluru. History of the case A trial which dragged on for 18 years, the case was registered in 1996 on the basis of a complaint by Subramanian Swamy alleging that Jayalalithaa’s financial assets had grown from Rs. 2.60 crore to Rs. 66.65 crore during her term as Chief Minister between 1991 and 1996. AIADMK supporter Rajeshwari (centre), says she wants Jayalalithaa to return as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. In September 2014, a special court in Bengaluru found Jayalalithaa and three other accused in the case, Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Ilavarasi guilty of floating 32 front companies, including Jaya Publications and Sasi Enterprises, and amassing wealth and property through these companies. What’s next for Jaya? This is a political revival for Jayalalithaa. The AIADMK Legislature party can, and now possibly will, elect her back as its leader soon, paving way for her to become the chief minister again. Jayalalithaa needs to get elected from a legislative assembly seat within six months of being elected as the Legislature party leader.    A similar scenario had played out in 2001 when O Paneerselvam was chief minister from September 2001 to March 2002 after Jayalalithaa had to step down following a Supreme Court verdict terming her appointment null and void due to her conviction in a criminal case. Although in December 2001 she was acquitted in two cases by the Madras High Court, Jayalalithaa chose to contest by-elections in 2002 and then take the throne.   With reporting by Dhanya Rajendran, Ramanthan S, Sameera Ahmed, and Nitin B. All images by The News Minute