Sasikala swearing-in hits legal hurdles

DA case looms large; plea in SC against oath-taking

Sasikala swearing-in hits legal hurdles

V K Sasikala was all set to take over as Tamil Nadu chief minister on Tuesday, but her plans hit a roadblock.

Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao headed for Mumbai from New Delhi, and not to Chennai, on Monday.  He is governor for two states: Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.

Sasikala was recently made general secretary of the ruling AIADMK. On Sunday, she was elected leader of the legislative party and is set to become the chief minister. Rao is expected to swear her in.

Amid reports that Rao was seeking legal advice before administering the oath of office to Sasikala, Maharashtra Raj Bhavan sources said he was arriving in Mumbai late on Monday.

There was, however, no official word on what the governor was planning to do after the Supreme Court indicated on Monday that it would deliver a verdict within a week in the Jayalalithaa disproportionate assets case, in which Sasikala is a co-accused.

Separately, on Monday, a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court to restrain Sasikala from being sworn in on Tuesday. Earlier in the day, Rao accepted Panneerselvam’s resignation as chief minister.

Sasikala’s swearing-in was slated for Tuesday or Wednesday at the University of Madras Centenary Auditorium. Senior bureaucrats and police officers visited the venue on Monday to monitor the preparations. 

The preparations were unaffected by the developments in the Supreme Court. The Karnataka government on Monday moved the apex court, saying judgement was pending in the disproportionate assets case against the then chief minister J Jayalalithaa.

“Wait for one week, it is almost over,” a bench headed by Justice P C Ghose told senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for Karnataka.

In the DA case, Dave, along with state government counsel Joseph Aristotle, made an urgent mention before the court, saying, “We are concerned about the judgement.”

But as soon as the counsel raised the question, the bench indicated the judgement was almost ready and would be delivered in a week.

The verdict was reserved on June 7, 2016. Though the proceedings against Jayalalithaa could be abated in view of her death, the court will still record its findings and determine the role of her co-accused – close aide Sasikala, and two of her relatives, V N Sudhakaran and Elavarasi.

After holding marathon hearing for at least 20 full days, lasting about a year, the bench of Justices P C Ghose and Amitava Roy had reserved judgement on separate special leave petitions filed by Karnataka and others.

These petitions had challenged the HC decision to overturn the conviction and the four-year jail term awarded to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and three others in the Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate assets case.

The Karnataka government had challenged the May 11, 2015 judgement of the HC, allowing the plea by then AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa and others against the Bengaluru court's decision of September 27, 2014 to confiscate some immoveable properties.

Special public prosecutor, senior advocate B V Acharya, had claimed that the HC committed a grave error in calculating the disproportionate assets to the extent of 8.12% only when actually it worked out to 76.7% of Jayalalithaa’s total income during her tenure as CM between 1991 to 1996.

At the swearing-in in Chennai, Governor Rao will administer the oath of office and secrecy to 62-year-old Sasikala and her council of ministers.

AIADMK sources told DH that senior party leaders had handed over a letter to the governor mentioning the unanimous resolution of AIADMK legislators electing Sasikala as the legislature party leader and nominating her for the post of chief minister.

Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan also held discussions with Sasikala at her Poes Garden residence in the morning to explain the preparations for the swearing-in ceremony.

Panneerselvam submitted his resignation to the Governor on Monday, stating he was quitting due to personal reasons.

The PIL filed in the Supreme Court cited pendency of the judgement in the disproportionate assets against then AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa and Sasikala as co-accused.

Chennai resident Senthil Kumar, general Secretary of NGO Satta Panchayat Iyakkam, filed the petition hours after the apex court indicated it could deliver in a week the judgement on the appeals challenging the acquittal of Jayalalithaa and Sasikala in a 19-year-old disproportionate assets case.

Kumar, who mentioned in the plea that he will argue the matter in person, sought a stay on the swearing-in ceremony, contending that if she was convicted and forced to resign, there was a possibility of riots erupting all over Tamil Nadu.

He said law and order may worsen in such an eventuality as the state was already facing a "desperate situation" due to a cyclone, demonetisation and death of Jayalalithaa.

Bad timing

Sasikala unlikely to be sworn in today as Governor Rao is examining legal implications

SC verdict in Jayalalithaa DA case likely in a week

Sasikala is co-accused in the case

SC will also record its findings on the role of her relatives

‘No conspiracy’

UK expert Dr Richard Beale, among those who had treated Jayalalithaa, dismissed charges that doctors had bungled. He said he interacted with Jayalalithaa several times in the course of the treatment.

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