Supreme Court convicts Sasikala in DA case, fresh battle for power in AIADMK

Tuesday, Feb 14, 2017,18:58 IST By anju A A A

New Delhi/Chennai | The Supreme Court today restored AIADMK chief V K Sasikala’s conviction in a disproportionate assets case and sent her back to jail, making her bid to become chief minister of Tamil Nadu short-lived and sparking a fresh battle for power in the ruling party.

In a 570-page judgement in the 19-year-old case that also involved J Jayalalithaa, the apex court ordered that Sasikala, 60 , a close aide of the late chief minister, surrender forthwith and serve the remaining part of her four-year jail term. She has already spent six months in a jail in Bengaluru.

There was no immediate word on when Sasikala, who was held guilty of entering into a conspiracy with Jayalalithaa, would surrender. The conviction bars the AIADMK general secretary from contesting elections for nearly 10 years and holding any executive post.

Sasikala’s loyalist Edappady K Palaniswami was elected the Legislature Party Leader, a move apparently aimed at projecting him as the next chief minister, while O Panneerselvam, the caretaker chief minister, was sacked from the party’s primary membership, the latest in a series of tit-for-tat moves that the two factions have been making.

Moving quickly, Palaniswami, 63 , met Governor Vidyasagar Rao and staked claim to form the government even as Panneerselvam made a fervent appeal to those in Sasikala’s camp to go by their “conscience” in taking forward the government that was led by ‘Amma’ (Jayalalithaa).

Palaniswami submitted the letter of support of party MLAs, who elected him at a resort near Chennai.

Though it was not announced how many MLAs attended the legislature party meeting, the Madras High Court was yesterday informed by the state prosecutor that 119 AIADMK MLAs were staying in the resort on their own volition. AIADMK has 134 MLAs in the 234-member Assembly.

The apex court “restored in toto” the judgement and the findings of the trial court in Bengaluru which held all the four accused–Jayalalithaa, Sasikala and Sasikala’s two relatives V N Sudhakaran and Elavarasi guilty and sent them to jail.

The two-judge bench comprising Justices P C Ghose and Amitava Roy while overturning the Karnataka High Court verdict that had acquitted the four convicts directed Sasikala and the two relatives to surrender forthwith to the trial court in Bengaluru and serve the remaining part of four-year jail term.

Sasikala stayed overnight at a resort in Koovathur, 80 km from here, where MLAs supporting her are camping for the past few days.

The verdict disqualifies Sasikala from becoming a legislator and consequentially she can’t be chief minister either for six years from the date of release of prison under the Representation of the People Act.

The bench read the operative portion of the voluminous judgement saying that “according to the materials and evidence place on record, we set aside the judgement and the order of the high court and affirm in toto the judgement and order the trial court convicting the accused persons.”
The bench said since Jayalalithaa has expired, the proceedings against her is abated. She died on December 5.

“Nevertheless, we reiterate that having regard to the facts, the charge framed against them by the trial court is restored,” the bench said.

“Since the charges framed by the trial court have been restored against all of them they will surrender forthwith before the trial court and serve the remaining part of the sentence,” it said.

The pronouncement of the verdict was completed in about eight minutes. Justice Ghose, before pronouncing the judgement, said “You can understand (that it is) too much of a fatty judgement. We have taken the burden on us.”

Senior AIADMK MP Thambidurai, a Sasikala loyalist, said they will appeal against the verdict.

The trial court in Bengalure had sentenced Sasikala and her two relatives to four years imprisonment with a fine of Rs 10 crore each while Jayalalithaa was sentenced to four years with a fine of Rs 100 crore.

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