Bengaluru, May 11:
In a relief to former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa, a special bench of the Karnataka High Court on Monday acquitted her in the Rs.66.65-crore disproportionate assets’ case. She was convicted and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment by a lower court earlier.
With the charges against her dropped, the stage is now set for the return of Jayalalithaa as Chief Minister. A meeting of the AIADMK legislature party has been convened at 4 pm today where she is expected to be elected leader. Her swearing-in could take place on May 17, party sources said.
Pronouncing the much-awaited verdict on the appeal by 67-year-old Jayalalithaa filed against the trial court judgment on September 27, 2014, Justice C.R. Kumaraswamy set aside all the charges on which she was convicted, sentenced to four years’ jail term and fined Rs.100 crore. The charges were not “sustainable”, the judge ruled.
The judge ordered the lower court to release Jayalalithaa’s assets that were confiscated during the case.
The case dragged on for 18 years first in Tamil Nadu and later in Karnataka after the Supreme Court transferred it to Bengaluru in November 2002.
The judge also acquitted Jayalalithaa’s three co-convicts who were sentenced for four years of jail term and fined Rs.10 crore each.
The three co-convicts are Sasikala Natarajan, her nephew V.N. Sudhakaran and her aunt J. Ellavarsi. Sudhakaran is also the disowned foster son of Jayalalithaa.
The apex court on October 17, 2014, granted an interim bail till December 18 to Jayalalithaa and the three co-convicts by suspending her sentence. Their bail was subsequently extended till May 12.
Jayalalithaa had also spent three weeks from September 27 to October 17 in the central jail on the city’s outskirts after the high court rejected her bail petition on October 7 and till the apex court granted her interim bail on October 17.
Hundreds of supporters and cadres of the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu greeted the verdict with loud cheers, bursting of fire crackers and dancing in Cubbon Park, a km away from the high court complex.
About a dozen lawyers of Jayalalithaa and the three others also distributed sweets and exchanged greetings with her supporters and her party leaders within minutes after the verdict was delivered around 11 a.m.
Meanhwile, BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy, whose petition led to the case against Jaya, has said he would appeal against the Karnataka High Court verdict in the Supreme Court.