The Supreme Court’s verdict on 20-year-old disproportionate assets case, likely on Tuesday, can make or break Jayalalithaa’s aide Sasikala Natarajan. AIADMK’s Chinnamma, Sasikala is currently stuck in a long drawn battle with party loyalist O Panneerselvam for the chair of Tamil Nadu chief minister.
The apex court is likely to deliver its verdict in the DA case at 10:30am on Tuesday. The against-verdict could end Sasikala’s career while a dismissal will pave her path to the Poes Garden.
Disproportionate assets case
Sasikala is co-accused in a DA case against former TN chief minister and her mentor Jayalalithaa, along with Ilavarasi and VN Sudhakaran.
In the case almost filed 20 years ago, Jayalalithaa was accused of misusing her office during her first tenure as chief minister during 1991-96 to amass properties worth ₹66.65 crores and depositing the amount in her proxy accounts.
A raid in her Poes garden residence in 1997 recovered 800 kg (1,800 lb) silver, 28 kg (62 lb) gold, 750 pairs of shoes, 10,500 sarees, 91 watches and other valuables.
However, she and all others were acquitted by Karnataka High Court in 2014. The case is now pending in Supreme Court.
On Sunday, there were strong rumours that the Karnataka SC may seek to delete Jayalalithaa's name from the case. These rumours, however, were deemed false by the Karnataka's legal team which says that since she is no more, the case against her stands abated under Section 394 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
There are two clear-cut scenarios which can emerge out of the Supreme Court verdict -
The first scenario would be to uphold the verdict of the trial court which had sentenced Jayalalithaa, Sasikala to four years imprisonment and also ordered a fine of Rs 100 crore. Although rare, there is also a possibility of the case being referred back to the Karnataka high court.
This scenario could arise if the SC feels that the appeals need to be decided fresh on merits since the prime accused Jayalalithaa is no more.
Since Sasikala is not an elected representative, a conviction will not disqualify her. Instead, she would be barred from contesting an election for six years from the date of release from prison. If the four-year sentence is upheld then she will not be allowed to contest an election for 10 years.
The second scenario could be the court exonerating Sasikala from the charges. If such a verdict is passed by the Apex Court, then she will have no difficulty in taking the oath and cementing herself in the top political position of Tamil Nadu.
Reportedly, even Tamil Nadu governor Vidhyasagar Rao is keeping a lookout on Supreme Court’s verdict on Sasikala’s case.