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Jayalalitha guilty of corruption; Gets 4 years in Jail and a fine of Rs. 100 Crore

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Bengalore (Sept 27, 2014): In a huge blow to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, a Bangalore trial Court has sentenced her to 4 years in jail along with a fine of Rs 100 crore for her role in the 18-year-old disproportionate assets case under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The others convicted in the case have also been given a jail term of four years along with a fine of Rs 10 crore.

She has been convicted in the case along with her close aide Sasikala and her relative Ilavarasi. Her disowned foster son Sudhakaran has also been found guilty.

With the verdict against her, the AIADMK leader faces an immediate disqualification from the Assembly and will have to step down as the Chief Minister. She will be taken into custody shortly.

Special Judge John Michael D'Cunha convicted the 66-year-old AIADMK Chief in a case of owning assets to the tune Rs 66,65 crores disproportionate to her known sources of income during 1991-96 when she was chief minister for the first time.

The prolonged trial saw five judges - AS Pachapure, AT Munoli, BM Mallikarjunaiah, MS Balakrishna and John Michael D'Cunha. The case was transferred to Bangalore's Special Court in 2003 by the Supreme Court on a petition filed by DMK leader K Anbazhagan who had expressed doubts over conduct of fair trial with Jayalalithaa as Chief Minister.

Appearing before the court four times, Jayalalithaa has answered 1,339 questions in closed door hearings during which she has maintained that the case was "politically motivated" and "fabricated" at the instance of her rival DMK.

Controversy also swirled around the case after Karnataka Advocate General BV Acharya quit as Special Public Prosecutor and Bhavani Singh came in his place. Questions were raised in the Supreme Court over appointment of Singh also. The case was filed by Subramanian Swamy in 1996. She was arrested and jailed for some days after DMK came to power in the 1996 Tamil Nadu Assembly polls.

Cases of violence have been reported from several parts of Tamil Nadu including Chennai and Madurai after the verdict against Jayalalithaa. AIADMK supporters indulged in stone pelting and arson and also forced closure of shops in many areas.

According to police, a state-owned transport corporation bus was set on fire at Veppur village and nearly 20 buses were damaged in stone-pelting in Cuddalore district.

Ahead of the verdict, the area around the court was turned into a fortress as the platoons of Karnataka State Reserve Police, the city Armed Reserve and the Rapid Action Force were deployed, besides hundreds of police personnel, including those in plain clothes.

Her conviction has come as a rude shock to the ruling party, casting a doubt over the 66 year-old leader's political future ahead of the 2016 assembly polls. Jayalalithaa has earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first sitting Chief Minister in the country to be found guilty under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

While a pall of gloom descended at the AIADMK headquarters at Royapettah, the archrivals celebrated Jayalalitha's conviction with scores of DMK workers thronging the headquarters Arivalayam as well as Karunanidhi's residence.

Jayalalithaa, in the past, had to step down as Chief Minister in 2001 when Supreme Court observed that she cannot hold office, as she was earlier sentenced in two corruption cases in 2000, which, however, was set aside later. She had been acquitted in several other cases filed during the DMK regime.

Today's verdict has come as a jolt to the ruling AIADMK as it had been enjoying a winning spree in all elections held since April 2011, when the party trounced DMK. The party had put up a stellar performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls winning 37 of the 39 states in the state, though its hopes of a pivot role in the Centre failed with the BJP mustering majority on its own.

However, there is no threat to the party government as AIADMK has a solid majority of 150 seats in the 234-member Assembly. After the apex court's observation in 2001 that she cannot continue in office, Jayalalithaa had made her loyal aide and then not-so-known face O Panneerselvam as her successor to power.

After getting absolved of the charges in the Madras High Court, she had contested from Andipatti constituency and became the Chief Minister again in 2002. Panneerselvam is also one of the names presently doing the rounds in AIADMK circles as one of the probables to take over as the next Chief Minister if Jayalalithaa has to resign.

The others being Transport Minister V Senthil Balaji and Electricity Minister Natham R Viswanathan and even former Chief Secretary and Consultant to the state government, Sheela Balakrishnan.

CASE TIMELINE:

1996: 

June 14: Dr Subramanian Swamy files complaint against J Jayalalithaa

June 21: The Principal District and Sessions Judge directs Letika Saran, IPS, to investigate the private complaint

June 18: The then (DMK) Government directs DVAC to register an FIR against Jayalalithaa for allegedly possessing unaccounted assets

1997: 

June 4: Charge sheet filed for Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate assets

October 21: 
Court frames charges against Jayalalithaa, Sasikala, Sudhakaran, and Ilavarasi

2002:

March: Jayalailthaa takes over as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister again

February 28, 2003: DMK leader K Anbazhagan moves Supreme Court for transfer of trial from Chennai

November 18: Apex Court orders transfer of trial to a Special Court in Bangalore while observing that ‘fair trial was not going’ in Chennai

December 2003 to March 2005: Special Court set up at Bangalore; B V Acharya named Special Public Prosecutor for the case

2010:

January 22: Supreme Court clears way for trial of DA case and trial commences

Dececember 2010 to February, 2011: Witnesses re-examined by the prosecution

2011:

May 16: AIADMK back in power, Jayalalithaa becomes Chief Minister again

Octtober 20 & 21; Nov 22 & 23: Jayalalithaa appears in person, answers Special Court’s questions

2012:

August 13: G Bhavani Singh appointed as SPP

August 23: Anbhazhagan moves HC questioning appointment

August 26: Karnataka Govt removes Singh as SPP

August-September: Singh moves Apex Court which reinstates him

September 30: Special Court judge Balakrishna retires.

Oct. 29: HC appoints John Michael Cunha as judge of Special Court

2014:

Aug. 28: Trial concludes, Special Court says verdict will be pronounced on September 20

Sept. 15: Jayalalithaa requests for change of locations for security reasons

Sept. 16: Special Court allows Jayalalithaa’s plea, orders for shifting venue near Bangalore Central prison; postpones verdict to September 27

Sept. 27: Bangalore trial Court sentenced her to 4 years in jail along with a fine of Rs 100 crore for her role in the 18-year-old disproportionate assets case under the Prevention of Corruption Act.