The Karnataka government decided on Monday to challenge Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s
in a nearly two-decade-old graft case in the Supreme Court.
The indecision shown by the Congress government since the acquittal on May 11 had sparked allegations that the party was trying to strike a deal with Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK.
Veteran lawyer BV Acharya, who has been retained as special public prosecutor for the case by Karnataka, told Hindustan Times the appeal will be filed “in a matter of days”.
Announcing the government's decision after a cabinet meeting, law minister TB Jayachandra said, "After consulting the advocate general, the special public prosecutor and the law department, we have arrived at the conclusion that this is a fit case for an appeal.
“We have strong grounds and the decision was taken on the merits of the case. There was no political consideration."
Acharya, who has played a key role in the case over the years, will be retained as special public prosecutor and noted lawyer Sandesh Chouta will assist him, Jayachandra said.
Two days after the acquittal, Acharya wrote a strongly worded letter to Advocate General Ravivarma Kumar in which he said the state government should not delay the appeal as there is enough material to nail Jayalalithaa.
The Karnataka high court overturned a special court’s conviction of Jayalalithaa last year for possessing assets worth Rs 66.64 crore that were disproportionate to her known sources of income. The lower court had sentenced her to four years in jail and slapped a fine of Rs 100 crore on her. The acquittal paved the way for Jayalalithaa’s return as chief minister.
Reacting to the government’s decision to retain him as special public prosecutor, Acharya told Hindustan Times, "Normally in such cases, the first step is to seek a stay on the lower court's order. That's what we will do."
He said he had been eagerly waiting for the government’s decision. "The appeal will be now filed in a matter of days," he said.
Sources in the state government said the thrust of the appeal will be that Karnataka high court judge CR Kumaraswamy had made an accounting error while calculating Jayalalithaa's assets.
Kumaraswamy had acquitted her on the grounds that her assets were disproportionate by less than 10% and, therefore, she had not committed a criminal offence.
The prosecution is expected to argue that the scale of corruption is immaterial while pointing to the "accounting error" and attempting to prove that Jayalalithaa’s assets are actually disproportionate by more than 10%.
The appeal had become a hot potato for the Karnataka government and it was accused of trying to protect Jayalalithaa on the orders of the Congress party’s top leadership.
The allegations gained ground after letters to the government by the advocate general and the special public prosecutor – in which they repeatedly urged the law ministry to file an appeal – were leaked to the media.
Jayachandra dismissed these allegations and said, "There was absolutely no delay. We were under no pressure from the Congress high command.
“It is the legal responsibility of the Karnataka government to file an appeal. The Supreme Court has clearly stated that Karnataka is the sole prosecuting agency in this case. In effect, Karnataka has stepped into Tamil Nadu's shoes (as the prosecuting authority)."
The BJP, which accused the state government of playing politics over the appeal, was silent after the announcement was made.
Former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, a national vice president of the BJP, praised Jayalalithaa as an “Iron Lady” during his visit to Chennai on Sunday and said her friendship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi is "good for the nation and the people of Tamil Nadu"..