Setback for Sasikala as SC restores conviction in disproportionate assets case

IANS
Tuesday, February 14, 2017

In a major setback for AIADMK General Secretary V.K. Sasikala, who was aspiring to be the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, the Supreme Court on Tuesday restored her conviction and four year jail sentence in a disproportionate assets case.

Restoring the September 27, 2014 judgment of the trial court convicting and sentencing her and her two relatives - V.N. Sudhakaran and J. Elavarasi, a bench of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Amitava Roy set aside the May 11, 2015 Karnataka High Court order acquitting the three and late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa.

The immediate fallout of the top court verdict is that Sasikala is out of the electoral field for 10 years - four years in incarceration and six years of disqualification under the Representation of Peoples Act after her release.

Restoring the conviction and sentencing by the trial court in "full including the consequential directions", the bench ordered the trial court to take" immediate steps to ensure" that Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Elavarasi "serve out the remainder of sentence awarded them and take further steps in compliance of this judgment..."

The court said that the three would surrender before the trial court "forthwith".

Speaking for the bench, Justice Ghose commended the trial court for being "meticulous, sensitive, vigilant and judicious in appraisal ..." and that "we are of the unhesitant opinion" that the High Court judgment and order "suffers from manifest errors on the face of the record, both on facts and in law and is liable to be set-aside".

Justice Roy, in a concurring judgment, expressed deep concern over the "escalating menace of corruption in society".

The court said that every transaction that was taking place was in the know of each one of them living under the same address.

"The unimpeded, frequent and spontaneous inflow of funds" from the account of Jayalalithaa to those of the "other co-accused and the firms/companies involved, overwhelmingly demonstrate" their "collective culpable involvement" in the transactions ... "the same to be masked banking exchanges though involving several accounts but mostly of the same bank", the court said.

It rejecting the argument that trial suffered from "unfairness and non-transparency".

"True that in course of the investigation, some documents had been seized which were not adduced in evidence being construed to be irrelevant for substantiating the charge, but it did not certainly tantamount to suppression thereof so as to afflict the trial with the vice of unfairness and non-transparency as alleged," the court said.

It also rejected the "off repeated grievance" of the accused that the trial court had left out of consideration material pieces of evidence brought by it, saying "suffice it to state that the decision rendered by it proclaim to the contrary".

"In all the aspects amongst others income, expenditure and assets, the judgment of the trial court reveals on a plain reading that the evidence adduced by the defence as construed to be relevant had not only been taken note of but also analysed and applied for arriving at the conclusions on the issues pertaining to the adjudication," it said in its judgment.

Upholding the trial court directing confiscation of the movable and immovable assets of the accused, as well of properties of six companies owned by the accused, to recover the fine imposed on them, the top court: "In our comprehension, the course adopted by the trial court cannot be faulted with."

"We are of the opinion that the order of confiscation/forfeiture of the properties standing in the name of six companies, as involved, made by the trial court is unexceptionable."

The top court verdict came on an appeal of the Karnataka government that had challenged the state High Court verdict acquitting Jayalalithaa, Sasikala and the two in the case relating to amassing disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs 66.65 crore during Jayalalithaa's first term as Chief Minister (1991-1996).


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