Nearly two weeks after VK Sasikala took over as AIADMK General Secretary, political circles in Tamil Nadu continue to be abuzz with speculation about when Jayalalithaa’s close aide will take charge as Chief Minister. And while many party functionaries hope ‘Chinnamma’ will be sworn in, in time for the flag hoisting on Republic Day - as The News Minute has reported earlier - sources say that Sasikala is hesitant to assume the post given that the verdict in the Disproportionate Assets case is still pending.
Sasikala’s legal hurdles
The 20-year-old DA case pertains to the alleged amassing of wealth to the tune of Rs 66 crore by Jayalalithaa, during her first term in power between 1991 and 1996. The prosecution alleges that Jayalalithaa amassed assets in her name and in the name of co-accused Sasikala, her sister-in-law J Ilavarasi, and nephew VN Sudhakaran.
The Supreme Court had in June 2016 reserved its verdict on the appeals filed by Karnataka on their acquittal. And though there has been much debate over what happens to the DA case following the main accused, Jayalalithaa’s death, Sasikala may not want to risk political embarrassment by being forced to step down as CM if she is convicted.
Other legal hurdles before Sasikala are the Foreign Exchange Regulations Act (FERA) cases from the 1990s. While Sasikala was arrested in 1996 for FERA violations, soon after Jayalalithaa was unseated by the DMK, and was discharged by the court in two cases in 2015, the court refused to discharge her from three other FERA cases that pertain to now-defunct channel JJTV’s foreign currency transactions. The Enforcement Directorate has also challenged her discharge in the two case in the Madras High Court.
But it’s not just her legal tangles alone that the AIADMK chief may have to worry about. With the taint of corruption on her extended family, Sasikala will have to keep a close eye on multiple cases pending against several members of her Mannargudi clan, especially if they are to have her favour.
While her sister-in-law Ilavarasi and nephew Sudhakaran are co-accused in the DA case, here are some of the other cases pending against other members.
Sasikala’s brother V Divaharan, also known as “Boss” in Mannargudi, has several criminal cases pending before him.
He was arrested in February 2012 in connection with a house-demolition case. Divaharan was accused of demolishing the house of a DMK supporter in Tiruvarur.
His arrest, however, came weeks after Jayalalithaa expelled Sasikala and several members of her family including Divaharan from the AIADMK in December 2011.
Two months later, Divaharan was charged in another case for illegal sand quarrying.
Following several complaints of land grabbing, Divaharan was arrested in Tiruvarur district in March 2013.
Former AIADMK Rajya Sabha MP, and nephew of Sasikala, TTV Dinakaran has been found guilty of money laundering and benami transactions in a 1996 case. Last week, the Madras High Court confirmed a penalty of Rs 25 crore imposed on him by the Directorate of Enforcement. The ED had booked him under FERA after huge sums of money were deposited into his bank account between the years 1991-1996, coinciding with Jayalalithaa’s first term as CM.
Like his aunt, Dinakaran too has other FERA cases pending before court. The ED had in 2015 moved Madras High Court not only to challenge Sasikala’s discharge in FERA cases, but also that of Dinakaran in two cases.
With Dinakaran spending considerable amount of time at Poes Garden, where Sasikala resides, the cases are bound to cast a shadow on the AIADMK chief.
Image coutesy: YouTube Screengrab
Like his older brother Dinakaran and aunt Sasikala, Bhaskaran also has FERA cases pending before court. As managing director of JJTV, Bhaskaran allegedly made “off-the-record” payments of USD 500,000 to an American company. This is the same case that Sasikala is also a part of.
Bhaskaran, who also goes by the alias Bas, having starred in the 2014 Tamil film “Thalaivan”, was arrested in 2013 on charges of cheating a woman of Rs 3 lakh after promising her a job as a teacher at a government school.
Dr S Venkatesh
Another nephew of Sasikala, and the former state secretary of AIADMK’s youth bodies, Dr S Venkatesh was arrested in May 2013 on charges of land grabbing.
Like several members of his family, Venkatesh was expelled from the AIADMK in December 2011 by Jayalalithaa following reports that Sasikala and her family had conspired against the then CM.
Son-in-law of Sasikala’s father’s brother, RP Ravanan, who now manages Jayalalithaa’s Kodanadu estate, was arrested in Coimbatore in January 2012 on charges of abduction for ransom, extortion, and criminal conspiracy. He was also named in the Rs 1 crore cheating case by a Tirupur industrialist.
Image courtesy: News18 Screengrab
Sasikala’s estranged husband was arrested in February 2012 in connection with a land grabbing case. He was accused of grabbing 20 acres of agricultural land in a village in Thanjavur.
Two months later, Natarajan was charged in another case of land grabbing and criminal intimidation from the same village in Thanjavur. However, the case was withdrawn a week later.
Natarajan, who fell out of favour with Jayalalithaa, was kicked out of the Poes Garden residence in 1990. He, however, made an appearance at Jayalalithaa’s funeral, even interacting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu.