Decks cleared for Jayalalithaa’s return as CM

Bengaluru/Chennai: Decks were cleared for the return of AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister after she was acquitted today in the 19-year-old disproportionate assets case against her by the Karnataka High Court which said her conviction suffered from infirmity and was not sustainable in law.

AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa
AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa

“…the accused are entitled to acquittal. When the principal accused (Jayalalithaa) has been acquitted, the other accused, who played a lesser role, are entitled to acquittal,” Justice C R Kumaraswamy said in his 919-page judgement that set aside trial court judge Michael D’cunha’s order last year holding her guilty of corruption and sentencing her to four years imprisonment.

The High Court verdict, that also acquitted Jayalalithaa’s close aide Sasikala and two others, triggered immediate jubilation among the AIADMK ranks who celebrated the event with bursting of crackers, distribution of sweets and dancing outside her residence in Chennai and across Tamil Nadu.

After she secured the clean chit, stop-gap Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and a host of party leaders trooped to her Poes Garden residence and held consultations apparently on her assuming reins of office once again.

Jayalalithaa was unseated from the Chief Minister’s post on September rpt September 27, last year when the trial court convicted her and she was automatically disqualified from being a member of the Assembly and contesting elections for 10 years from then.

But today’s verdict cleared the way for her to return to power and to contest elections. There is widespread speculation that Jayalalithaa, a strong believer, is looking at an auspicious day to take the oath again, almost a year ahead of the Assembly elections.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted Jayalalithaa on her acquittal which she said has proved that she did no wrong.

“Today’s verdict gives me immense satisfaction, this has removed the slander imposed on me, this has erased the blame put on me by political enemies,” she said in her first reaction hours after her acquittal.

“It has confirmed that I have done no wrong, this verdict is a boon granted by God for the prayers of Tamil Nadu people after the verdict of the lower court,” Jayalalithaa said.

Interestingly, the Special Public Prosecutor B V Acharya, who was brought in by the Supreme Court at the eleventh hour, said the prosecution case was seriously prejudiced as Karnataka and the SPP appointed by it were denied an opportunity to convince the High Court through oral arguments.