Former Tamil Nadu chief minister Late J Jayalalithaa cannot be termed as a convict in the Rs 66 crore disproportionate assets case, the Madras High Court said on Wednesday, while dismissing a petition challenging construction of a memorial for her on the Marina Beach here.
The Tamil Nadu government is constructing a grand memorial for Jayalalithaa, who died on December 5, 2016, at her resting place on the Marina Beach at a cost of Rs 50 crore — the petition by M L Ravi, president of Desiya Makkal Sakthi Katchi — wanted the court to direct the government to restrain from construction since she was a convict.
Jayalalithaa, whose conviction in the DA case was struck down by the Karnataka High Court in May 2015, died in December 2016 — two months before the Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s decision. Since Jayalalithaa was accused number 1 in the case, many including the Opposition began objecting to her picture being displayed since they claimed she was also an accused, though the verdict was delivered after her death.
The court has effectively settled a debate in Tamil Nadu politics whether Jayalalithaa was a convict since the verdict in the case came after her death. Though Opposition parties said she was still an accused, the ruling party rubbished the suggestions and went ahead using her pictures on all public platforms.
A division bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and P Rajamanickam dismissed the petition that sought a direction to restrain the Tamil Nadu government from spending money from the public exchequer for construction of the memorial.
The bench observed that before the orders could be passed by the Supreme Court on the appeals filed against the Karnataka High Court order, Jayalalithaa died, and therefore, the appeal against her acquittal came to be dismissed as abated.
"It is to be remembered at this juncture that the said person had already had the benefit of acquittal operating in her favour and in the light of the judgement of the high court, the stigma of conviction against her got erased, which has not been set aside by the apex court on merits for the reason that before the orders could be pronounced, she died," the court said.
"Therefore, it cannot be said that Jayalalithaa was a convicted person and as such, there is stigma of conviction attached to her," the bench added.
Jayalalithaa’s long-time aide V K Sasikala and her sister-in-law Ilavarasi are currently undergoing a four-year term at the Parapana Agrahara prison in Bengaluru.