Justice Amitava Roy had remarked that disproportionate assets was only a crime if the source of the money is illegal

DMK questions SC judges remark that DA in itself not a crime
news DA case Thursday, June 02, 2016 - 10:31

Acquisition of assets per se is not a crime unless proved that the source of funds is illegal, the Supreme Court observed on Wednesday, while hearing the wealth case involving Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.

In the first hearing after Jayalalithaa was voted back to power in the State, a Bench of Justices P.C. Ghose and Amitava Roy heard Karnataka’s submissions charging the three co-accused — N. Sasikala, J. Elavarasi and V.N. Sudhakaran of criminal conspiracy, abetment and possession of disproportionate assets with a barrage of questions.

“Disproportionate assets is not a crime. It is only a crime if it is proved that the source of the money is illegal. Otherwise it [the illegality of disproportionate assets] is only an inference,” Justice Amitava Roy orally observed, as reported in The Hindu.

The DMK has reacted sharply to these observations by asking why the same wasn’t applied to Lalu Prasad Yadav and Omprakash Chautala. “This observation by the Supreme Court is against the tenor of the PC act. It has always been the duty of the public servant to prove that the money is legal, not Karnataka's,” said DMK Spokesperson Saravanan. “The accused has to prove it, and as per the law, has to offer a plausible explanation with high degree of probability. When the High Court heard the case, the explanation was fraudulent as best. and acquisition of assets is not a crime per se? Now considering this logic, why wasn't the same applied to Lalu Yadav or Omprakash Chautala? The acquittal is being challenged because of a mathematical miscalculation, and even the lawyer appearing for Karnataka has called the acquittal perverse. I don't understand how this observation holds water legally or constitutionally.”

The court asked how Karnataka could prove that the money “circulated” among the co-accused was that of Jayalalithaa.

“In calculating disproportionate assets, value of assets, expenditure and income of all accused has been taken jointly along with that of firms and companies (34 in number)... Neither the High Court nor the trial court has considered the assets or disproportionate assets of each accused separately. Hence the accused cannot now make out a case in these appeals contrary to the concurrent findings of the two courts and without even a plea in this behalf,” Acharya submitted.

The court again intervened to ask whether Karnataka had any proof to show that the money “enjoyed, utilised” by the accused persons was that of Jayalalithaa alone and not received from a lawful source.

Justice Roy asked whether the findings of the income tax authorities and the tax returns of the accused had no probative value in the trial court.

“We are not saying it [income tax authorities’ findings] is binding, we are saying it has probative value. A criminal court has to assess the evidence, but cannot overcome the probative value of income tax findings,” Justice Roy asked.

“If these income tax returns were filed during the period of 1991 - 1995, it is understandable. But note that all of these returns been filed to counter the chargesheet to plug loopholes. The prosecution has in fact appeard for non filing of income tax returns. As for going on presumptions, if they had a clear source of income mentioned, there wouldn't be a problem. Rs.20 crores have been deposited in their bank accounts. Where is all this money from?, said DMK Spokesperson Saravanan.

Jayalalithaa had earlier countered why income tax assessments relied on by the High Court after conscious evaluation, treated as final and tested on the basis of testimonies of several witnesses should now be re-opened in the apex court.