Graft case: Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa sentenced to 4 years in jail

Bangalore: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa was today handed a 4-year jail sentence in an 18-year-old disproportionate assets case by a special court. She has also been fined Rs. 100 crore. She will now have to step down as Tamil Nadu CM. The verdict also means that Jayalalithaa won’t be eligible to contest elections for the next ten years

Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa

Special Judge John Michael D'Cunha convicted the 66-year-old AIADMK Chief in a case of owning assets to the tune Rs 66,65 crores disproportionate to her known sources of income during 1991-96 when she was chief minister for the first time.

Jayalalithaa's close aide Sasikala Natarajan, her niece Ilavarasi and her nephew and the chief minister's disowned foster son Sudhakaran were also convicted. They were also handed 4-year sentences apart from being fined Rs 10 crore each.

The verdict was delivered at a makeshit court in the Parappana Agrahara prison complex in the presence of Jayalalithaa and the other accused.

Jayalalithaa had to quit as Chief Minister immediately after her swearing in 2001 following the Supreme Court declaring null and void the action of the then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing her as the Chief Minister as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in a corruption case.

O Paneerselvan, a junior Minister handpicked by her, was appointed as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. By 2002, she was cleared of all charges and sworn-in again as the Chief Minister.

The area around the court was turned into a fortress as the platoons of Karnataka State Reserve Police, the city Armed Reserve and the Rapid Action Force were deployed, besides hundreds of police personnel, including those in plain clothes.

A large number of AIADMK supporters had gathered since early morning.

The prolonged trial saw five judges - A S Pachapure, A T Munoli, B M Mallikarjunaiah, M S Balakrishna and John Michael D'Cunha.

The case was transferred to Bangalore's Special Court in 2003 by the Supreme Court on a petition filed by DMK leader K Anbazhagan who had expressed doubts over conduct of fair trial with Jayalalithaa as Chief Minister.

Security has been increased at the DMK headquarters and residences of its senior leaders.

Police said that on a request from DMK, security had been increased at "Anna Arivalayam", the headquarters of DMK, two residences of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK President M Karunanidhi and the residence of Anbazhagan, party's general secretary.

Appearing before the court four times, Jayalalithaa has answered 1,339 questions in closed door hearings during which she has maintained that the case was "politically motivated" and "fabricated" at the instance of her rival DMK.

Controversy also swirled around the case after Karnataka Advocate General B V Acharya quit as Special Public Prosecutor and Bhavani Singh came in his place. Questions were raised in the Supreme Court over appointment of Singh also.

The case was filed by Subramanian Swamy in 1996. She was arrested and jailed for some days after DMK came to power in the 1996 Tamil Nadu Assembly polls.

The Karnataka government has so far spent Rs 2.86 crore on playing host to the case, according to documents obtained by an RTI activist.

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