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Jayalalithaa convicted in disproportionate assets case: How it all began

Editor's note: This article was originally published on 27 September, 2014. It is being republished in light of the fact that the Supreme Court is expected to announce its verdict in the disproportionate assets case on Tuesday.

It was a complaint by Subramanian Swamy in a Chennai in 1996 that led to a probe against Tamil Nadu Chief Ministers Jayalalithaa in what later came to be known as the "Disproportionate assets case" in which she was convicted by a Bangalore court today.

What the case is all about:

In the mid-90s, Jayalalitha was booked for amassing wealth to the tune of Rs 66 crore-which was disproportionate to her known sources of income-following a complaint by a DMK worker. Jayalalitha is the accused number one in the case followed by Shashikala Natarajan, Sudhakaran-foster son of Jayalalitha-and Illavarasi.

The charge against her was that her assets were around Rs3 crore in 1991 and had grown to around Rs 66 crore between 1991-1996.The AIADMK was voted out in 1996 as it was perceived to be corrupt.

The history:
On June 14, 1996, Subramanian Swamy, then Janata Party leader, filed a complaint before the Principal Sessions Judge in Chennai alleging that Jayalalithaa had assets disproportionate to her known sources of income. Swamy, was then the President of the the Janata Party, which has since merged with BJP.

 Jayalalithaa convicted in disproportionate assets case: How it all began

J Jayalalithaa. PTI

The court directed the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption wing to investigate the complaint.

Subsequently, an FIR was registered by the police on September 18, 1996 and a probe was conducted which also included search and seizure procedures at multiple locations including Hyderabad. A chargesheet was filed and witnesses examined.

The witnesses who were recalled in court after the AIADMK returned to power in 2001 invited the censure of the Supreme Court later.

It was alleged that the value of Jayalalithaa's assets increased to Rs.66.65 crore when she demitted office in 1996 after a five year stint. Before assuming office as Chief Minister on July 1, 1991, the value of her assets was Rs 2.01 crore, it was alleged. Jayalalithaa had then declared that she was drawing only Re1 as salary.

While Jayalalithaa was the first accused in the case, her aide Sasikala, her erstwhile foster son V N Sudhakaran and J Ilavarasi, a relative of Sasikala, are the other accused.

The case, in its 18 year journey has seen many petitions filed by the accused involving questions, including that of law, procedures and relief in several courts like the trial court, High Courts of Madras and Karnataka and the Supreme Court.

The case was transferred to Bangalore in 2003 by the Supreme Court on a petition filed by DMK leader K Anbazhagan in which Swamy, impleaded himself in his capacity as the original complainant. Swamy also supported the transfer of cases out of Tamil Nadu for a fair trial.They had maintained that the trial will not be conducted in a free and fair manner if it was done in Tamil Nadu.

Transferring the case to Karnataka, an apex court bench, comprising Justice S N Variava and Justice H K Sema in its judgement on November 18, 2003 observed: "It does appear that the new public prosecutor (appointed by the AIADMK Government) is hand in glove with the accused thereby creating a reasonable apprehension of likelihood of failure of justice in the minds of the public at large. There is strong indication that the process of justice is being subverted. Free and fair trial is sine qua non of Article 21 of the Constitution.

The big question now:

he big question now is who will head the government in the absence of Jayalalithaa. Again this is not the first time such a question has cropped up.

In 2001, Jayalalithaa had to step down as a chief minister following a Supreme Court verdict which held that she cannot hold the office after being convicted for criminal offences.

However, she made O. Panneerselvam, a senior minister in her government, as the chief minister.

In 2002, Jayalalithaa again became the chief minister after being acquitted by the Madras High Court. She was later elected from Andipatti constituency.

AIADMK leaders do not rule out re-run of such an arrangement.

Friends and foes are in awe of Jayalalithaa, who is the tallest Brahmin politician in a state where anti-Brahminism is a part of political discourse.

Even her critics admit that Jayalalithaa is a fighter and has an iron grip over her party.

The judgment against her was delivered in a state where she was born.

Born in what was then known as Mysore on Feb 2, 1948, Jayalalithaa moved to Chennai with her mother, who started acting in movies.

Jayalalithaa studied at the Bishop Cotton Girl's High School in Bangalore and another Christian convent, Church Park, in Chennai. A bright student, Jayalalithaa ventured into acting and made her debut at the age of 16 in a Kannada movie.

Her first Tamil movie was the memorable "Vennira Aadai". But it was the grand success of "Aayirathil Oruvan" pairing with the legendary M.G. Ramachandran (MGR) that turned Jayalalithaa into a leading light of Tamil movie world.

She has paired with almost all the leading Tamil heroes. She has acted in over 100 movies, mostly in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada.

A charismatic leader who is at home in Tamil, English and Hindi (a rare quality in Tamil Nadu politics), Jayalalithaa has also sung many songs and written several stories. But when she entered politics, few could have predicted her meteoric rise.

AIADMK founder-leader MGR made Jayalalithaa the party's propaganda secretary in the early 1980s. In 1984, she entered the Rajya Sabha.

Jayalalithaa, who chose never to marry, was elected to the Tamil Nadu assembly for the first time in 1989. Just two years later, she became the chief minister, sweeping the election of 1991 held in the wake of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's assassination.

She lost her huge mandate within five years amid corruption charges.


Updated Date: Feb 14, 2017 10:13:11 IST