NEW DELHI: VK Sasikala has been found guilty of corruption by the Supreme Court and will have to surrender to the police in Chennai so that she can be jailed for four years. This ends her high-decibel and divisive bid to be Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu – she is now barred from contesting an election for the next ten years. At 10:30 am today, two judges of the Supreme Court delivered their ruling separately, but agreed that Ms Sasikala had, in the early 90s, accumulated an illicit fortune. The case was originally pivoted on J Jayalalithaa, the four-term Chief Minister who Ms Sasikala lived with, but because she died in December, the judgement does not detail her role. However, the finding rips a huge role through the legacy of Ms Jayalalithaa, beloved “Amma” to lakhs of supporters who accorded her deity-like status and treated her with religious fervor. The case was premised on the fact that during her first term, Ms Jayalalithaa misused her office to accrue 60 cores of assets in a shared fortune with Ms Sasikala and her male relatives, who were later disowned by Amma.
The verdict disqualifies Sasikala from becoming a legislator, and consequentially she can’t be chief minister either. This also gives caretaker Tamil Nadu CM O Panneerselvam a huge boost in staking claim to be the legitimate successor to Jayalalithaa, who passed away in December.
In 2014, both women were jailed in Bengaluru, where the case was first tried. After being acquitted by the highest court in Karnataka, Ms Jayalalithaa returned to office. The appeal against the acquittal was filed in the Supreme Court by the Karnataka government, which has prosecuted the case.
As the verdict was delivered, Ms Sasikaka was at a resort on the outskirts of Chennai, where about 120 legislators from her party, the ruling AIADMK, have been stationed for a week to prevent them from switching allegiance to her rival, O Panneerselvam, who took over as Chief Minister after the death of Ms Jayalalithaa, who was his mentor. OPS, as he is known, had refused party orders to facilitate the promotion of Ms Sasikala to the state’s top job. Instead, like her, he petitioned Governor C Vidyasagar Rao for the right to take a trust vote in the legislature to prove he is the rightful head of government.
Ms Sasikala’s faction, which has about 125 of the party’s 134 MLAs, will now have to elect a new leader who will approach the Governor with a new request for the opportunity to prove his or her majority.
The legal proceedings in the DA case against Jayalalithaa and Sasikala go back two decades. The apex court had transferred the trial to Bengaluru after a DMK member, K Anbazaghan, moved court alleging that the trial may not be free and fair if it continued in Chennai when the main accused was chief minister.
The Bengaluru trial court convicted Jayalalithaa on September 27, 2014, and awarded her four years imprisonment along with Rs 100 crore fine, with Rs 10 crore fine on the other three. The conviction disqualified her as an MLA requiring her to step down as CM. But she returned as CM after Karnataka HC on May 11, 2015 acquitted her, Sasikala and the others in the DA case.
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