The Supreme Court, in a weighty 570-page judgement, sealed the immediate political fate of AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala by finding her guilty in the Disproportionate Assets case.
Stating that the evidence of existence of disproportionate assets is unassailable, the Supreme Court said that there was no need for itself to make any independent calculations as the Karnataka High Court had done when acquitting late CM Jayalalithaa and Sasikala in 2015. The two-judge bench comprising of Justices PC Ghose and Amitava Roy, instead, dismissed the HC’s calculations as a “completely wrong reading of the evidence on record compounded by incorrect 557 arithmetical calculations.”
The Court stated that the evidence led to the conclusion that the accused A1-A4 (Jayalalithaa, Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Ilavarasi) had entered into a conspiracy, and Jayalalithaa had amassed assets disproportionate to her income which she had dispersed among the others. The charge of abetment against Sasikala and her family members was also found to be proved, the Court said.
The Bench also stated that there was no reason to consider the jurisdiction of the case under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, was not divested simply because the only public servant in the case (Jayalalithaa) had died. The bench agreed with the Special Court that private individuals could be prosecuted under the law, “on the ground that they have abetted the act of criminal misconduct falling under Section 13(1)(e) of the 1988 Act committed by the public servant.”
The Court further pointed out a variety of circumstances in the case that proved the existence of a conspiracy among the accused. Firstly, the court says, the circumstances in which Jayalalithaa issued a General Power of Attorney in favour of Sasikala relating to Jaya Publications, showed that she wished to make herself secure from the funds moving through the company.
Secondly, a number of private firms were created, many of which did no other business activity except the purchase of property. Thirdly, these companies were operating out of Jayalalithaa’s house and hence it cannot be claimed that she did not know about them.
Fourthly, the judgement says, Sasikala and her relatives, despite claiming large amounts of land and income, were staying in Jayalalithaa’s house for the purpose of conducting the conspiracy between them.
Fifthly, Jayalalithaa had made a loan of Rs 1 crore to Sasi Enterprises, and hence, the court says, could not claim to be uninvolved in Sasikala’s business activity.
Sixthly, the manner in which money moved between various accounts suggested that it was being laundered with full knowledge, says the judgement. And finally, there was also the evidence provided by two witnesses.
“Accordingly, in view of the reasoning recorded hereinabove in the preceding paragraphs, we set aside the judgment and order of the High Court and affirm and restore the judgment of the Trial Court in toto against A2 to A4. However, though in the process of scrutiny of the facts and the law involved and the inextricable nexus of A1 with A2 to A4, reference to her role as well as the evidence pertaining to her had been made, she having expired meanwhile, the appeals, so far as those relate to her stand abated. Nevertheless, to 563 reiterate, having regard to the fact that the charge framed against A2 to A4 is proved, the conviction and sentence recorded against them by the Trial Court is restored in full including the consequential directions,” the Court said.
“Respondents A2 to A4, in view of this determination and the restoration of their conviction and sentence, would surrender before the Trial Court forthwith. The Trial Court is hereby also ordered to take immediate steps to ensure that the respondents A2 to A4 serve out the remainder of sentence awarded them and take further steps in compliance of this judgment, in accordance with law.”
Read the full judgement here: