Verdict in graft case against Jayalalithaa tomorrow

Last Updated 26 September 2014, 12:24 IST

After fighting an 18-year-old legal battle, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has a date with destiny tomorrow when a Special Court here pronounces the verdict in the disproportionate assets case against her and three other accused.

Jayalalithaa has been charged with accumulating Rs 66 crore wealth disproportionate to known sources of her income from 1991-96 in her first term as Chief Minister in the case that has seen many political and legal twists and turns.

Her close aide Sasikala Natarajan, her niece Ilavarasi and her nephew and Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son Sudhakaran are others listed as accused in the case.

The verdict will be delivered by Special Judge John Michael D'Cunha at a makeshit court in the Parappana Agrahara prison complex with the area in and around turned into a fortress with five layers of security.

Platoons of Karnataka State Reserve Police, the city Armed Reserve and the Rapid Action Force will be stationed near the court, besides hundreds of police personnel, including those in plain clothes, police said.

Keeping all options open, an exclusive helipad has also been built within the prison complex in case Jayalalithaa, who enjoys 'Z Plus' security cover, decides to fly down there, police said.

The Rs 66.65 crore assets case dates back to Jayalalithaa’s first term as the Chief Minister, from 1991 to 1996. It was filed before a special court in Chennai in 1996 by the Tamil Nadu's Department of Vigilance and Anti Corruption (DVAC).

In perhaps one of the longest legal battles involving a political leader ever since the case was filed, the country has witnessed five Lok Sabha elections and Tamil Nadu three Assembly polls.
As the case moved, it has faced several twists and turns following the filing of associated cases and petitions.

Moreover, the Special Court itself has witnessed five judges presiding over the case - A S Pachapure, A T Munoli, B M Mallikarjunaiah, M S Balakrishna and John Michael D'Cunha.

Controversy also swirled around the case after Karnataka Advocate General B V Acharya quit as Special Public Prosecutor and Bhavani Singh came in his place. Questions were raised in the Supreme Court over appointment of Singh also.
The case was transferred to the Bangalore Special Court by the Supreme Court in 2003 on a plea by DMK, which claimed a fair trial cannot be held in Chennai as the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK government was in power.

The verdict, which was scheduled for September 20, was deferred to September 27 as the Karnataka High Court had to issue a notification regarding shifting of the court to facilitate Bangalore police to make security arrangements for the Chief Minister. Jayalalithaa on September 15 had filed a petition before the Special Court judge seeking security cover.

The court has directed Jayalalithaa and three other accused to be present before it.
Appearing before the court four times, Jayalalithaa has answered 1,339 questions in closed door hearings during which she has maintained that the case was "politically motivated" and "fabricated" at the instance of her rival DMK.

The case was filed by Subramanian Swamy in 1996 accusing Jayalalithaa of amassing properties worth Rs 66 crore during her tenure as the Chief Minister from 1991 to 1996. She was arrested and jailed for some days after DMK came to power in the 1996 Tamil Nadu Assembly polls.
The case was shifted to Bangalore on a plea by DMK leader K Anbazhagan contending that a fair trial in Tamil Nadu was not possible under Jayalalithaa as the Chief Minister and that many witnesses had turned hostile.

Jayalalithaa, who has waged many legal battles and seen many ups and downs in her political career, had to quit as the Chief Minister immediately after her swearing in 2001 following the Supreme Court declaring null and void the action of the then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing her as the Chief Minister as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in a corruption case.

O Paneerselvan, a junior Minister in her Council of Ministers, was appointed as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. By 2002, she was cleared of all charges and sworn-in again as the Chief Minister.

The Karnataka government has so far spent Rs 2.86 crore on playing host to the case, according to documents obtained by an RTI activist.
On the security issues that may crop up soon after the verdict, senior police officials of the two states had met recently to discuss matters relating to Jayalalithaa's protection and threat perceptions.
The makeshift location where the verdict will be pronounced is a small place and there will be strict access- control and journalists will be kept at a distance, police said.
Police also said that their officials have been told to maintain normalcy across the state, particularly those in districts bordering Karnataka.

(Published 26 September 2014, 11:09 IST)

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