The Supreme Court’s conviction of VK Sasikala in a 21-year-old disproportionate assets case has not only dealt a blow to her political ambitions but it has also held former chief minister and AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa guilty of corruption.
The much-awaited order found both Jayalalithaa and Sasikala guilty of amassing illegal wealth, which has tarnished the legacy of the late chief minister and AIADMK supremo.
Such is the convoluted nature of contemporary Tamil politics that Tuesday saw many of caretaker chief minister O Panneerselvam’s supporters actively cheer a verdict which was also a damning report into the conduct of their beloved leader, Jayalalithaa.
“It was Sasikala who abused her friendship with Jayalalithaa and influenced her,” said K Anbu, an AIADMK cadre member who has supported Panneerselvam since the his dramatic revolt last Tuesday.
“Amma is innocent, Sasikala is the reason the disproportionate assets case came up in the first place,” he added.
Anbu’s reaction is typical of the Panneerselvam camp: Overwhelming joy at Sasikala’s conviction mixed with a steadfast belief that Jayalalithaa is innocent, and was manipulated by her confidante.
Officially, the appeal against Jayalalithaa’s acquittal by the Karnataka high court in 2015 stands abated, given her death in December.
Value of disproportionate assets: The Karnataka government contented that the actual value was not 8.12% as calculated by the HC but 76.7% of the income of the accused.
Loans as income: According to the complaint, the most glaring error in the judgement was with regard to the exact value of loans the accused had borrowed. Prosecution said the value was.5.99 crore. But, the HC held that the loans were valued at Rs 24.17 crore. It added that the probe ignored 10 items of loans borrowed. Before SC, the state said even after including the 10 items the total was only Rs 10.67 crore.
Number of assets: Complaint says, trial court takes into account 146 sales of immovable properties, concluding the net worth of real estate sales was nearly .20 crore. HC ignores 49 of the 146 sales, reducing the value to .6.24 core.
Grape garden income: Prosecution computed that the total agricultural income from grape gardens in Hyderabad as Rs 5.78 lakh. Trial Court held that the income earned was Rs 10 lakh. However, HC computed the income as Rs 46.71 lakh.
Gifts as income: HC held gifts worth Rs 1.5 crore received by Jayalalithaa on her 44th birthday were lawful income but prosecution disputed the claim.
Income from Jaya Publications: HC pegged the total business income from Jaya Publications at Rs 4 crore, treating the total amount of turnover as net profit, the complaint alleged
Income of Super Duper TV Pvt Ltd: Trial Court rejected Sudhakaran’s claim that the company made a "legitimate income" of Rs 1.10 crore. HC judgement sets aside the trial court finding.
Valuation of buildings: Trial Court fixed the total cost of buildings at Rs 22.53 lakh. HC, however, re-evaluated the cost and arrived at Rs 5.10 lakh.
But the apex court’s judgement pulls no punches as it details her involvement in the corruption which, it holds, was proven.
In the following extract, A1 refers to Jayalalithaa, A2 to Sasikala, and A3 and A4 to Jayalalithaa’s foster son Sudhakaran and Sasikala’s sister-in law Ilavarasi respectively.
“We have analysed the evidence adduced by the parties and we come to the conclusion that A1 to A4 have entered into a conspiracy and in furtherance of the same, A1 who was a public servant at the relevant time had come into possession of assets disproportionate to the known sources of her income during the check period and had got the same dispersed in the names of A2 to A4 and the firms & companies involved to hold these on her behalf with a masked front. Furthermore, the charge of abetment laid against A2 to A4 in the commission of the offence by A1 also stands proved.”
In layman terms, Jayalalithaa was found guilty of conspiring to amass illegal wealth when she tried to obfuscate by moving assets to Sasikala, Sudhakaran, and Ilavarasi.
The 21-year-old case saw the actress-turned-politician accused of collusion, of abusing her position as a public servant, and amassing a total Rs 66 crore which investigative agencies found disproportionate to their assets at the time.
Panneerselvam now has to tread a careful path in celebrating the Supreme Court verdict. Already MLAs from the rival camp, like Inbadurai, have voiced concerns over his support of the verdict.
“How can he support a verdict which has convicted Amma?” asked Inbadurai, hours after the announcement was made.
But beyond the morass of short term politicking, one thing is clear: Jayalalithaa has been found guilty of corruption in the highest court of law in India. And her legacy is forever tarnished.