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Dhanya Rajendran| The News Minute| October 4, 2014| 5.00 pm IST (Comment) In 1997, when a special court was formed to conduct trial in the Jayalalithaa case, N Jothi, the lawyer representing Jayalalithaa, also an AIADMK functionary, waved the order copy at the judge’s face and asked, “Is this a court? Are you a judge?”  Again, in 1999 the same Jothi kicked up a ruckus in the Special Court, following a notification issued by Union Ministry nullifying special courts. Jothi told the court that it had ceased to exist and they were all just pall bearers.  This is the arrogance with which Jayalalithaa’s team of lawyers argued the case… Even as lawyers changed, the streak of arrogance prevailed, guided by a strong belief beneath, that their Amma was invincible. Their unshakeable faith that she will reign supreme forever was a sentiment encouraged by Jayalalithaa’s own conduct and perhaps over confidence. Ironically, a decade later, the same N Jothi deserted the AIADMK in 2008 and joined the rival DMK – taking with him crucial knowledge about the loopholes in her case. Even then, Jayalalithaa’s legal team was confident, and they continued telling her and the world that she will emerge victorious eventually. Jayalalithaa believed them.  Jayalalithaa’s DA case is a saga of political rivalries where her advisers are fear-ridden sycophants, her defence team is drunk on arrogance and the AIADMK supremo herself, is high on political power.  For Indian politics, legislators defending charges of corruption in the court of law is a regular feature. Several significant political leaders in the past have faced such charges and defeated the prosecution, few have stood convicted. Jayalalithaa, alone has faced more than 40 cases, and was convicted by lower courts in at least 2 cases. She was later acquitted in most of the cases against her, including the two cases she was initially convicted for. But one unique aspect of the DA case which set it apart from the rest we have seen in Indian politics is the sheer number of people who were involved in the case. There were several financial victims to this case, people whose properties were snatched away and those who lost their assets overnight. These victims were happy to offer their services as crucial prosecution witnesses later. But to those who have tracked the case for nearly two decades, it is the blind arrogance of her lawyers, ignorant of facts and fearless of consequences, which cost Jayalalithaa the case. They spread the usual canards that the case was only born out of political vendetta. The web of lies they had woven over the years was so dense that they started believing in it. “From the beginning they didn’t approach this as a legal challenge; instead they had a confrontational attitude. They came to a conclusion that she will be acquitted, only based on extraneous factors. She is a strong politician, there will be a weak judge, the political atmosphere will help her… for years they believed these factors will help her,” says a senior journalist who has followed the case for years. The acquittal in the TANSI case, that too be a judge in Madras High Court, cemented this confidence even further. There are embarrassing mistakes which are testimony to their carelessness, which in hindsight destroyed any defence Jayalalithaa claimed to have.  One pertinent example is the receipts of deposits received by Namadhu MGR, a publication run by Jayalalithaa and Sasikala. A bulk of the money in this case was claimed to be received as deposits by crores of AIADMK workers across the state, but when the court asked for the receipts, the lawyers said it had been stolen from a Tata Sumo car in 1997. In 2012, these receipts magically reappeared, making the judge ask in his order, “But surprisingly, the accused themselves have got the original application forms summoned from the office of the Income Tax Department in the year 2012.” The alarm bells should have started ringing when in April 2014 Judge Michael Cunha refused to set aside the attachment of properties owned by 22 companies of which Jayalalithaa was suspected to have a stake in. That should have given an inkling to Jayalalalithaa's defence, the way the judge was thinking, that perhaps he was not convinced with their arguments that Jayalalithaa was not linked to the companies. Instead till the day of the judgement, stories were spread in Tamil Nadu. While some talked about a 'deal', others said there was a ‘political compromise’.  “The lawyers told us we will be acquitted, Amma too strongly believed it. We were ready to go back that day,” someone who follows Jayalalithaa like a shadow told me. Another Jayalalithaa aide claims that 'someone in the thick of things' met Sasikala a few days before judgement day and categorically told her that it was going to be an acquittal. Multiple people have confirmed that lawyers and even her own party leaders assured Jayalalithaa time and again that she would be acquitted. It is surprising that Jayalalithaa and Sasikala, known to be shrewd and smart players, actually believed that the mountain of evidence against them would be simply discarded by a judge. And perhaps that was the cardinal mistake. Jayalalithaa, her political and defence team- all believed blindly that she was indomitable.  The confidence and what detractors term audacity was always evident in her decisions, the way in which she governed and even how her entourage moved. Security men in safari suits, personal assistants and subservient party cadres who would accompany their leader, always enjoyed being in a position of power. But in the last week a lot of that has changed. The same men who would shoo crowds with an air of confidence are hovering around the Bangalore Central jail. Her core team of around 10 to 15 people has not once moved from the spot. “We bathe in hotels or houses nearby, sleep in our cars,” one of them told me. Last Sunday, her team was confident that she would get bail immediately, “Lawyers have assured us, Amma will be out soon,” one of them said. One week later, the mood has changed significantly. There is fear and uncertainty looming in the air. “Do you think she will get bail? Or will this go to the Supreme Court?” that’s the question everyone close to Poes Garden is asking. With Jayalalithaa refusing to meet anyone in jail, information is scarce, and like the media, they too are dependent on small bits of info given by jail authorities. Conversations with many of them reveal that they are worried about her age, what went wrong, and if someone mislead them willfully… But beneath all that worry is still a belief… that Amma will emerge untouched, that everything will be taken care of.  In the end it was not about what Jayalalithaa or her lawyers believed in, it was about a judge who saw evidence that he thought was strong enough to convict all accused. Evidence, that AIADMK pretended didn't exist. Perhaps, there are more lessons to be learnt. Also read-  "Jayalalithaa had an uncanny streak for self destruction"- Interview with Vaasanthi S                       It's a political witch hunt, Jayalalithaa told the judge after he held her guilty in DA case

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