The Supreme Court reserved its verdict on a batch of appeals filed by Karnataka government and others against the high court order acquitting Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa and others in a disproportionate assets case.
A vacation bench comprising justices P C Ghose and Amitava Roy, which has been hearing the appeals of the state government and DMK leader K Anbazhagan against the acquittal, concluded hearing arguments.
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for Karnataka government, dealt with the alleged roles of six firms and the evidence regarding assets and funds held by each of them.
The firms, which found mention in the trial court records, are Lex Property Development, Meadow Agro Farms Ltd, Riverway Agro Products Pvt Ltd, Ramraj Agro Mills Ltd, Signora Business Enterprises Pvt Ltd and Indo Doha Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd.
“The issue of the matter is that these companies were purchased (takeover of shareholding) by introduction of the accused persons (other than A-1 Jayalalithaa) as directors and removal of existing directors. The control of these companies were taken by the accused persons, after which bank accounts were opened and as large amount of cash was deposited into these accounts,” the written note submitted by Luthra said.
The note also gave a chart showing cash flow and purchase of property.
Dealing with the role of the firms, Luthra claimed that “in essence these companies were used as receptacles of ill- gotten cash for which no explanation was given during investigation nor during the trial. Such cash becomes the basis for large scale properties being purchased where all negotiations were done at the house of A1 (irrespective of where the property situated in Tamil Nadu).”
The senior lawyer also submitted an amended chart to give details of transaction of funds including the details of cash deposits.
Senior advocate Harin P Raval, appearing for the companies, opposed the submissions made by Karnataka government.
The senior lawyer further said “The trial court by order dated September 27, 2014, in the absence of the present respondent companies being arraigned as accused persons, without notice and without hearing, purported to exercise powers under section 452 of CrPC and directed confiscation of properties registered in the name of six companies to the state government...”.
The firms also disputed the locus of Karnataka government in filing the appeals in the apex court.
Dealing with the probable situations, the companies said that there was no question of “any attachment or disposal of their property” by the Karnataka government.
Earlier, the apex court had said that acquiring assets “per se” is not a crime unless the sources are found to be illegal.
The court had outlined the three options available to it and said it may either uphold the High court verdict or reverse it or re-appreciate the entire evidence which may lead to fresh re-trial or it can also remand the matter to the high court for fresh consideration.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, also appearing for Karnataka, had said, “The judgement of the high court reflects violent miscarriage of justice and it is perverse beyond imagination. It is based on mere surmises and conjectures and none of the findings are based on evidence.”
The Karnataka government is arguing its appeal in the case as the trial was shifted from Tamil Nadu and a Bangalore court had convicted the accused including Jayalalithaa who later succeeded in her challenge before the high court there.
Besides Jayalalithaa, others acquitted by the high court were her close aide Sasikala and her two relatives, V N Sudhakaran and Elavarasi.
On July 27, last year the apex court had issued notices on Karnataka government’s appeal seeking stay of the high court judgement to Jayalalithaa, Sasikala and her relatives V N Sudhakaran and Elavarasi, asking them to file their replies within eight weeks.
The Karnataka HC had on May 11, 2015 ruled that AIADMK supremo’s conviction by special court suffered from infirmity and was not sustainable in law, clearing decks for her return as Tamil Nadu chief minister.
The special court had in 2014 held Jayalalithaa guilty of corruption and sentenced her to four years imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 100 crore. Jayalalithaa and three others were accused of allegedly amassing disproportionate asserts to the tune of Rs. 66.65.crores during her first term as chief minister from 1991 to 1996.