29 September 2014.
It took 18 years for the Indian judicial machinery to crank itself to a decision. Half a generation does not know what happened and the other half has forgotten it.
Special Judge John Michael D’Cunha found Madam Jayalalithaa guilty of being in possession of US$ 10.8 million of assets which were disproportionate to her then income in 1991 to 1996 when she was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
There is an old adage: “Let the sleeping dog lie”. If Madam Jayalalithaa did not believe in this adage, she could have expedited the case, during the time when Congress was in power and with a favourable judge like former Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, Justice Markandey Katju she could have got herself declared not guilty of every count as charged. Fate would not have it that way.
She was convicted twice before in February 2, 2000 and October 9, 2000 and both those convictions were overturned. This time she was sentenced to 4 years in jail and fine of US$ 16.3 million.
The court also convicted Jayalalithaa’s close aide Sasikala Natarajan, her niece Ilavarasi and her nephew and her disowned foster son Sudhakaran in the case. They were charged with possessing assets valued at US$ 10.8 million acquired by corrupt means.
Soon after sentencing she was sent to Parappana Agrahara jail in the city but was shifted to a hospital inside the prison premises after she complained of chest pain. A prison official said that her supper was “ragi (malt) ball, plain rice, sambar and curd rice with pickle as per the jail manual”
He lawyers confirmed that they will be filing an appeal for her bail as well as setting aside of her sentence on Monday.
Violence broke out by AIADMK cadres forcing businesses to close, torching buses, damaging vehicles, blocking roads and burning effigies. Governor K Rosaiah expressed concern over the law and order situation.
Australian government today issued a travel advisory for its citizens in Tamil Nadu. . In this advisory, the government said, “Following the conviction and sentencing of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, we recommend that Australians in Chennai remain indoors over the weekend of 27-28 September due to increased tensions.”
It is widely speculated that O. Pannerselvam, the current Finance Minister will succeed as Chief Minister in the interim. This is his second time as a Chief Minister.
9 October 2014
Karnataka High Court has rejected the request for bail to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. This is uncommon to happen for a person of her standing. This decision indicates that the judiciary will treat public service corruption more seriously than before. It will also be treated more seriously than other economic crimes. Normally a bail for four year prison term would have been admitted as a matter of course and the suspension of sentence would also have been allowed.
High Court cited a decision that convicted public servant should be deemed to be corrupt until exonerated by the appellate court and that suspension of sentence is not an automatic event. The court also noted that a post-conviction bail is not the same as a pre-trial bail where presumption of innocence is admitted.
It is also made clear that early disposal of appeal is better than temporary relief granted to a convicted person.
Justice A.V. Chandrashekara overruled the Special Public Prosecutor’s argument that conditional bail may be granted to Ms. Jayalalithaa and others. He held that there were no grounds for granting any relief.
Now Ms. Jayalalithaa will have to seek any immediate relief from the Supreme Court.
The Justice’s decision seems to be in line with the Supreme Court’s recent findings:
(a) removed the protection from immediate disqualification enjoyed by convicted legislators,
(b) fixed a time-limit for grant of sanction for prosecution of public servants,
(c) directed early completion of trials involving lawmakers, and
(d) struck down the requirement of government clearance for investigating high ranking bureaucrats.
The High Court has also ignored the political clamor for Ms. Jayalalithaa’s release in Tamil Nadu. Incidents of violence and protests that inconvenience the public will not help her in her legal battle. On the contrary it may hurt her politically in the long run.