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Decision to contest Jaya verdict logical

The Karnataka government’s decision to appeal before the Supreme Court against the acquittal of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha in the Disproportionate Assets (DA) case is a logical step. The decision, 20 days after Justice C R Kumaraswamy of the Karnataka High Court delivered the judgment, quells speculation over what was perceived as the Congress government’s hesitation to go on appeal. The case is not just high-profile but one with enormous implications for the future of Jayalalitha and politics in Tamil Nadu.

 Karnataka’s decision is logical and welcome because it gives an opportunity to revisit the high court order which has been questioned by some of the legal experts. The arithmetical calculations of the assets of the chief minister - at the heart of the order which led to the eventual judgment, and which critics said was an error - will come under scrutiny. The verdict had reduced the chief minister’s disproportionate assets to less than 10 per cent of her total income. This, the verdict stated, was within the range allowed by an earlier Supreme Court judgment. If the error is corrected, the level of disproportion may be far higher than the permissible 10 per cent which could radically alter the verdict. Further, legal experts have questioned the high court’s interpretation of income under certain heads that gave the benefit of doubt to Jayalalitha. The acquittal is diametrically opposite of the conviction that a lower court handed out to the chief minister on September 27, 2014. Special court judge Michael D’Cunha had declared Jayalalitha guilty of corruption and sent her to jail because of which she was disqualified as a legislator and had to resign as chief minister.  With two courts giving divergent verdicts, only the country’s apex court could set the things straight and decide whether the disproportionate assets fell within the 10 per cent bracket.

 There should be no question why Karnataka is involved in the case – it is only because the Supreme Court, during the course of the hearing earlier, had ordered that it be shifted to Bengaluru. This purely legal involvement of Karnataka stretches to the current appeal as well. The case has to be taken to its logical conclusion and that cannot happen without appealing the high court verdict in the Supreme Court. It would only be in the fitness of things that the ruling dispensation in Tamil Nadu takes the responsibility of informing its supporters that the appeal should not be seen as another chapter in the perceived rivalry between the two states. Mixing up issues in such a sensitive matter can only do more harm than good, irrespective of the legal denouement.

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