Tamil Nadu's political landscape may see an upheaval in a few months, as former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s close aide V K Sasikala's lawyer says she is likely to be released from the Parappana Agrahara prison in Karnataka within this year. Her advocate Raja Senthura Pandian told TNM that her release is imminent and has in fact been delayed by the lockdown imposed in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawyer's revelation comes in view of a reply to an RTI (Right to information) query filed by T Narasimha Murthy, a resident of Bengaluru. He had asked the prisons department what the date of Sasikala Natarajan's release will be. And in reply to this, the department stated that 'multiple norms are encompassed to calculate the date of release for any given convict prisoner. For example: date of release changes based on the fine payment status accordingly. Hence, we are unable to provide you with the precise date of release.'
On February 14, 2017, the Supreme Court of India over-ruled the Karnataka High Court and convicted Sasikala, Ilavarasi and Sudhakaran in the disproportionate assets case. They were awarded four years' imprisonment, as well as being fined Rs.10 crore.
"We are 100 percent expecting an early release. I last met her on March 7 before the lockdown and haven't been able to meet her after that. So all our processes for release are currently halted. We don't know the status of the paperwork I have submitted. If not for the lockdown, she could have been released by now," says the advocate.
According to the advocate, given that Sasikala has been imprisoned at different periods in 1997 and 2014 for the same case, her jail time should be reduced. Her counsel is also expecting 'good behaviour' to shave off days from her jail term. It is however unclear if this allowance will be granted as Sasikala's jail term has been marred with controversy after IPS officer Roopa Moudgil alleged that she had bribed jail officers. The Vinay Kumar Commission which conducted a probe concluded that Sasikala was given special privileges in jail.
"She has in addition to that, now served three more years and been out on parole only twice. Once we can go visit her again, we will get a better idea about how to proceed," says the advocate. "If our current strategy is not effective, we can recalibrate."