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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2640

Unstoppable Indian corruption – Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa’s illegal asset case to go to Supreme Court!

By Dr. Abdul Ruff

As a crude jolt to ambitions of Jayalalithaa who, upon her acquittal in the historic illegal assets case, retook the rein of Tamil Nadu as CM, Karnataka government has decided to appeal in Supreme Court against the apparently faulty judgment delivered by judge Kumaraswami of Karnataka High Court, acquitting her of all charges.

1. Clean chit followed by neat hit

Ending three-week long suspense, Karnataka government on June 01 has decided to file an appeal in the Supreme Court against acquittal of actress turned Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and three others by Karnataka High Court in the disproportionate assets case.

The decision to challenge the 11 May verdict by Justice C R Kumaraswamy of the Karnataka High Court was taken at a cabinet meeting after the advice by the Special Public Prosecutor in the case B V Acharya and state Advocate General Ravivarma Kumar as also the state Law Department.

The Karnataka Law Minister Jayachandra said that Chief Minister has directed me to file an appeal in the Supreme Court immediately. The Supreme Court had specifically said Karnataka has stepped into the shoes of TN and it is the sole prosecuting agency for all matters related to the disproportionate assets case, he said. Replying to a query, he said Acharya will be the SPP in the case in the apex court. He said the SPP appointed on the direction of the Supreme Court had advised filing the appeal against the wrongful acquittal of Jayalalithaa and three others and even the AG and law Secretary had concurred with it. "And now the cabinet has decided to file the appeal," he said, adding it was being done "legally on merit".

In the 11 May verdict that restored Chief Ministership and her right to contest elections to her, Jayalalithaa was acquitted of "all charges" in the 19-year old disproportionate assets case. Three other convicts, including her close aide Sasikala Natarajan, were also given a clean chit by the High Court.

Acquitting Jayalalithaa and three others of "all the charges leveled against them", the single bench judge Justice Kumaraswamy, in his 919-page judgment, had also quashed the order of the trial court relating to confiscation of the properties both movable and immovable.

On disproportionate assets, the judge had held that "it is relatively small. In the instant case, the disproportionate asset is less than 10 per cent and it is within permissible limit."

"The percentage of disproportionate assets is 8.12 percent," the judge had said. Her conviction last year meant that she was automatically disqualified as a lawmaker, but can contest again after her acquittal.

The High Court had held that the judgment and findings recorded by the trial court convicting her and three others suffers from infirmity and it is not sustainable in law and so she was set free. Public prosecutor B V Acharya found the judgment totally flawed with faulty calculations to favor Jaya’s acquittal and advised Karnataka government to appeal in Supreme Court.

In retrospect, Special Trial Court Judge Michael D Cunha had on 27 September last held Jayalalithaa and three others guilty of corruption and awarded four years jail term, due to which she attracted disqualification as an MLA that divested her of Chief Ministership. The judge had also slapped a fine of Rs 100 crore on Jayalalithaa and Rs 10 crore each on three other convicts. Later, as a twist, the Karnataka High Court in Ban galore on 11 May gave a clean chit to the AIADMK chief and her three associates, clearing them of "all charges" in the 19-year-old case, paving the way for return of Jayalalithaa as Chief Minister.

Meanwhile, John Michael Cunha, who as Special Judge of the trial court had convicted Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in a disproportionate assets case, has been appointed as the Registrar General of the state High Court by the Karnataka government. Cunha, now holding the post of Registrar (Vigilance), High Court of Karnataka, will come in place of B A Patil who has been transferred, a government order said here. On September 27 last, Cunha had held Jayalalithaa and three others guilty of corruption in the 19-year-old disproportionate assets case and sentenced them to four years in prison and forfeiting her MLA position plus she was disqualified under the Representation of the People Act from contesting elections for a period of ten years—four years from the date of conviction and six years thereafter.
However, Jaya has got everything back with a faulty High Court judgment. Since her conviction was overturned by the Karnataka High Court on May 11, the AIADMK chief returned as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister for the fifth time on May 23.
The Congress and the Karnataka government were apparently in two minds whether to contest the High Court order or not. Apparently, the government too thought itself as a non-stakeholder and didn’t want to earn the wrath of Jayalalithaa and her party. What seems to have prevailed over the initial reluctance of the Karnataka government is the all-round opposition from the Congress. According to some reports, what seem to have prompted the Karnataka government’s decision, after the initial reluctance, are the signals from the corrupt Congress high command that promotes corruption as its key policy. Some reports said that Sonia Gandhi favored an appeal.

Although none reported political reasons behind the Karnataka government’s dilly dallying, it was obvious that the state Congress unit was soft on rich Jayalalithaa, unlike Abdul Nasser Madani, a Kerala Muslim pundit, whom it wants to keep in Bengaluru jail permanently mainly because he does not have crores to bribe. (Pundit Madani was earlier tortured in Coimbatore for 10 long years as a suspect in a bomb blast before the court found him innocent and let him free, but after two years Karnataka state police - presumably under instruction from Congress central government - forcefully took him from home in Kollam, Kerala with help from ruling Communist party. Recently the Supreme Court granted bail on health ground as he has been suffering from multiple problems, including his eye sight. However, Karnataka government got his bail cancelled. Apparently Indian government with a possible colonialist mindset is taking revenge against Muslims for no explicit reasons),

The Karnataka government had a 90-day deadline to file the appeal.

2. Another swearing in

A fresh legal challenge to 67-year old Jayalalithaa has come nine days after she made a triumphant return as Chief Minister with O Panneerselvam making way for her following acquittal by the High Court.

Ms Jayalalithaa, 67, was sworn in as Chief Minister for fifth time on May 23, after an eight-month break that was forced upon her when a court in Bengaluru found her guilty of amassing wealth beyond her income during her first term in office two decades ago. The ruling AIADMK chief was arrested for three weeks before getting bail from the Supreme Court. She appealed against her conviction in the High Court and won her case this month. The case against her was originally filed in 1996. In 2003, the trial was moved to neighbouring Karnataka to ensure that the politics of Tami Nadu would not influence the proceedings.

- Asian Tribune -

Ms Jayalalithaa, 67, was sworn in as Chief Minister for fifth time on May 23
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