Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa did have disproportionate assets. But the Karnataka High Court acquitted her saying her disproportionate assets were within permissible limits of 10%.
“It is well settled law that...when there is disproportionate asset to the extent of 10%, the accused are entitled for acquittal,” Justice CR Kumaraswamy said citing a 1977 Supreme Court ruling in Krishnanand Agnihotri’s case.
The HC said there was no “acceptable evidence” to point out that Jayalalithaa spent Rs 3 crore on her foster son’s wedding. “ Just because Accused No.1 was Chief Minister at that time, we cannot saddle all the marriage expenses on her part...Arriving at Rs.3,00,00,000/- towards marriage expenses and fixing liability of Rs.3,00,00,000/- to A-1 (Jayalalithaa) alone is not proper.” It also removed “the exaggerated value of cost of construction” from her income.
"If we remove the exaggerated value of cost of construction and marriage expenses, the assets will work out at Rs. 37,59,02,466. The total income of the accused, firms and companies is Rs. 34,76,65,654. Lack of proportion amount is Rs. 2,82,36,812. The percentage of disproportionate assets is 8.12%," Kumaraswamy said in his judgment.
"It is relatively small. In the instant case, the disproportionate asset is less than 10% and it is within the permissible limit. Therefore, accused are entitled for acquittal," said the judgment.
Apart from the Krishnanand Agnihotri case, the HC also took note of a circular issued by the government of Andhra Pradesh that disproportionate asset to the extent of 20% can also be considered as a permissible limit.
Based on the two cases, justice Kumaraswamy came to the conclusion that disproportionate assets within 10% to 20% has been taken as a permissible limit in DA cases.
Jayalalithaa had disclosed that she spent about Rs.28.68 lakh for bearing marriage expenses. Defence witness Ramkumar deposed that he spent about Rs.92 lakhs while the bride’s father Narayanswamy – an IIT Professor - spent about Rs.18 lakh. AIADMK workers met the expenses of food and pandal.
The former CM had appealed against her conviction in the Rs 66.64-crore disproportionate assets case by the special court judge Michael D'Cunha, who had sentenced her to 4 years in prison and slapped a fine of Rs 100 crore.
The AIADMK chief, along with aides N Sasikala, VN Sudhakaran and J Elavarasi, was held guilty of holding unaccounted for income during her tenure as chief minister from 1991-96 by the trial court. Her close aide Sasikala and Sasikala's relatives Sudhakaran and Elavarasi were fined Rs 10 crore each.