news Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 05:30
After the Karnataka High Court acquitted former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in the disproportionate assets case, opposition parties have raised concerns over Justice C R Kumaraswamy’s judgment for setting of a precedent which allows “gifts” to politicians.   The judgment says that AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa received Rs 2.15 crore as gifts from friends, family and party workers on her birthday and during the marriage of her foster-son Sudhakaran. This includes an amount of Rs 77 lakhs, which were gifted as foreign remittance.   Aside from the fact that these donations happened in the year 1992, a year after Jayalalithaa was sworn in as Chief Minister and have not been adjusted for inflation, the judge’s verdict could set off a potential headache in future cases.    Politicians in the country including CM’s and heads of political parties (especially regional parties) have almost thrived on the sycophancy or reverence of their supporters. In the north, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav’s 75-foot-cake and the Mayawati’s plot on the moon are relevant examples. In Tamil Nadu itself, DMK chief Karunanidhi adorned a garland of rupee notes on his 89th birthday.   What qualifies as a “gift” is an interesting question. In his judgment, Justice Kumaraswamy observed that:  “In Tamil Nadu, there is practice of giving gifts to political leaders on their birthdays. She has also claimed foreign remittance of Rs.77 lakhs. Taking into consideration all these aspects, in my view, the income that arises from the gifts in my estimation will be around Rs.1,50,00,000/-.”   Justice Kumaraswamy mentions that Jayalalithaa’s Income Tax Returns were filed late. But his observation that the practice is acceptable may set a “wrong precedent” according to R. Vaigai, senior advocate in the Madras High Court.   “I hope the Supreme Court sets it right,” she says. “Every other constitutional functionary can now say gifts are permissible”, she adds while saying that it’s a dangerous precedent to “lay down as a whole.”   The AIADMK’s political opponents the DMK and the PMK have weighed in on the matter too. PMK chief S Ramadoss has said that the “judge has added Rs 1.50 crore as income which is against the law.”   While mentioning that politicians do receive gifts, Ramadoss says that “it is a crime for Jayalalithaa to receive gifts while being chief minister and it is even more intriguing how it can be treated as income by Justice Kumaraswamy.”   Reports claim that the Karnataka government is planning on appealing the verdict in the Supreme Court.   Until the apex court rules otherwise, legitimizing such extravagant offerings is something that may occur as a consequence of the Justice’s verdict.