AIADMK chief and former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa on Monday welcomed the Karnataka high court's judgment acquitting her of all charges in the disproportionate assets case as a victory of justice.
In a statement, Jayalalithaa thanked the people of Tamil Nadu for "reposing faith" in her and also thanked god for "the gift of people's love".
"It is not just a victory for me, but it is a victory for the truth and the victory for the people of Tamil Nadu," said Jayalalithaa in her statement.
Earlier in the day, the HC overturned a Bengaluru trial court's judgment and acquitted Jayalalithaa and her three associates in the disproportionate assets case that had haunted her for the last 18 years.
Launching an all-out attack on the DMK, she said that the opposition could not win against her politically or electorally and tried to ruin her career through other ways but "finally justice has prevailed."
"It is the defeat of the DMK conspiracy to destroy me and AIADMK. The DMK had conspired to defame and malign my legacy and the legacy of my mentor, MGR," said the AIADMK chief.
"It gives me immense satisfaction and has removed the slander cast on me out of political vendetta. The verdict has shown I have not
committed any wrong. It has helped me emerge as gold further refined by fire," she added.
She also "recalled with sorrow the demise of 233 party workers", who lost their lives after the special court in Karnataka convicted her in the corruption case.
"I don't consider it as a personal victory, justice has been established, dharma has won."
Reacting to the acquittal of his arch-rival, DMK president M Karunanidhi said the Karnataka HC's verdict was "not the final" one.
"What has been pronounced today is not the final verdict. I would like to remind one and all about Mahatma Gandhi's saying there is a court above all courts and that is conscience," he said in a statement.
Jayalalithaa 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.
Pronouncing the operative portion of the judgement, which ran into 10 volumes and over 900 pages, justice CR Kumaraswamy said, "Appeal allowed. All charges set aside. All are acquitted."
Special public prosecutor BV Acharya complained that the prosecution was denied adequate opportunity to present its case.
"The prosecution was not allowed to make oral arguments," said Acharya.
"I did not expect this verdict. But so many judgements are surprising," he said, clarifying that the decision to move the Supreme Court was not his alone.
Jayalalithaa's lawyer B Kumar was expectedly jubilant and said, "This is a historic judgement. Our faith in the judiciary has been restored."
"The case against Jayalalithaa could not be proved so she has been let off," said Kumar.
Thousands of AIADMK workers and supporters, who had congregated at her Poes Gardens residence since morning, danced, burst fire crackers and distributed sweets seconds after justice Kumaraswamy announced the verdict.
Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam and many top ministers and party leaders congregated at Jayalalithaa's residence.
"All our prayers have been answered," shouted Shihan Hussaini, a Karate coach who had nailed himself to a cross to pray for the AIADMK leader's acquittal, outside her residence.
"I am not from AIADMK but I am supporting Amma and the good work done by her as a common man. Who does not have cases registered against them? Doesn't Rahul have a case against him and are not Karunanidhi or Raja mired in cases against them," he questioned.
Party functionaries too expressed happiness and said they always had faith in the judiciary.
"The honourable judge has given the best order," said AIADMK spokesperson CR Saraswati.
"For us, today is Mother's Day," added Saraswati.
The order paves the way for her return to power as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu after she was forced to step down in September 2014 when she was convicted by the Bengaluru trial court.