Nemesis knocks at Jayalalithaa’s door
On 27 September 2014, Jayalalithaa’s past caught up with her after 18 long years (which saw several judges and Public Prosecutors), and sent her to jail. Political connoisseurs were of the view that justice was delayed but finally delivered.
As things stand, Jayalalithaa is out of electoral politics for the next 10 years. It is to be fervently hoped that the “hierarchy of appeals” which are certain to be filed to get either the Karnataka High Court or the Supreme Court to set aside the conviction and to grant her bail, will not bear fruit and the courts will uphold the judgment of the Parappana Agrahara Special Court in Bangalore and that she remains out of the political arena. Keeping her out of electoral politics for the next 10 years is to let her off lightly considering the mindboggling extent of her corrupt regime, the lives she has ruined, at least one very important and ancient religious institution she tried very hard to destroy, and the wretched politics of revenge that was the leitmotif of her career as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
Jayalalithaa’s entry into Tamil Nadu politics was facilitated by the deaths of MG Ramachandran and Rajiv Gandhi. The people of Tamil Nadu blamed the DMK for allowing the LTTE to run amok in the state and Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination at the hands of a LTTE suicide bomber only fuelled the anger.The AIADMK under Jayalalithaa’s inexperienced but charismatic leadership cruised to victory riding on the crest of an anti-DMK wave. On 24th June, 1991 Jayalalithaa became Tamil Nadu’s first elected woman Chief Minister.
Tamil Nadu got ‘Amma’ Jayalalithaa as a package deal with ‘Chinnamma’ Sasikala in tow and the entire Mannarkudi Mafia (Sasikala and her husband Natarajan’s avaricious immediate and extended family) following close on their heels. Without losing a moment, Jayalalithaa and Sasikala began their violent and corrupt political careers with a bang and they began it in the manner they intended to continue.
Jayalalithaa-Sasikala saga of corruption and violence
What follows is just the most noteworthy instances of the Jayalalithaa-Sasikala nightmare of corruption, violence and misrule:
1. Pleasant Stay Hotel Case
2. Burning alive of three college girls by AIADMK men after she was convicted and sent to prison
3. Killing two journalists working for “Tharasu,” a political journal given to borderline libellous reportage and sensationalism
4. TANSI – Acquisition of Government land Case
5. TIDCO – SPIC disinvestment Case
6. Throwing acid on IAS officer VS Chandralekha’s face for resisting the fraudulent disinvestment
7. Multi crore colour TV scam case
8. Obscenely ostentatious marriage of Jayalalithaa’s foster son V Sudhakaran
9. Bringing about the utter ruination of ‘Balu’ of Balu Jewellers who died an unnatural death under suspicious circumstances
10. Arresting both Pontiffs of the Sree Kanchi Matham and pushing the matham to the verge of complete destruction
11. Rs. 66 crore disproportionate assets case
If to this long and shameful list were added the innumerable homes of celebrities and real estate forcibly acquired from their owners under threat of death and ruination, four years imprisonment seems grossly inadequate although given her age and the cut throat nature of Tamil Nadu political parties, evicting Jayalalithaa for ten years from electoral politics is just desserts.
Pleasant Stay Hotel case
In February 2000, Jayalalithaa was sentenced to one year’s rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs. 1000 on charges of criminal conspiracy (IPC) and criminal misconduct by a public servant (PCA).
In the Pleasant Stay hotel case Jayalalithaa was accused of providing illegal exemptions in the form of allowing construction of additional five floors to a hotel in 1994 while serving as Chief Minister from 1991 to 1996. However, in 2001, the Madras High Court acquitted her of all charges in the hotel case.
Burning to death three college girls
In 2000, when a lower court delivered the judgment, Jayalalithaa’s partymen went on a rampage across the state. Three young girl students of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University who were on a study tour were burnt to death in Dharmapuri in February 2000. The three young women and their classmates in the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore, were on an educational tour in two buses. Three men, who allegedly belonged to the AIADMK, came on a motorbike and set the bus transporting the young women on fire. While some young women scrambled out through one exit that was open (the other one was locked), Hemalatha, Kokilavani and Gayathri, trying to retrieve their luggage, were trapped inside.
This violent incident and trial thereafter resulted in the conviction and death sentence of three men although Jayalalithaa has always maintained that they were not party functionaries.
TIDCO-SPIC disinvestment case
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), charge-sheeted Jayalalithaa on August 18, 2000, in the SPIC-TIDCO disinvestment case. The case was about the decision of the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO), a State government undertaking, in 1992 to renounce its rights in the Southern Petrochemcial Industries Corporation (SPIC) in favour of M.A. Chidambaram and A.C. Muthiah, then its Chairman and Vice-Chairman respectively.
Jayalalithaa, who was the Chief Minister at that time, C. Ramachandran, formerly Industries Secretary and Chairman and Managing Director of TIDCO, and AC Muthiah were the accused in the case. Muthiah’s father Chidambaram who was also an accused died in the course of the long trial.
The CBI chargesheet said that Jayalalithaa and Ramachandran, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, plotted a criminal conspiracy during 1991-92 with Chidambaram and Muthiah, reversed the decision of the previous DMK government, and facilitated Chidambaram becoming SPIC’s Chairman and gaining control over the company. The DMK government headed by M. Karunanidhi had decided that the State Chief Secretary should be SPIC Chairman because it was a joint venture undertaking of TIDCO and M.A. Chidambaram and Associates. TIDCO had a majority shareholding of 26 per cent in SPIC.
According to the chargesheet, Jayalalithaa and Ramachandran permitted TIDCO to renounce in favour of Chidambaram and Muthiah its rights with regard to 203,320 zero-conversion bonds (ZCBs) worth Rs.12.37 crores although under the prevailing rate of Rs.2,000 for one ZCB, a price of Rs.40.66 crores was warranted. As a result, the State government sustained a loss of Rs.28.29 crores, and Chidambaram and Muthiah derived corresponding financial advantage, it said (Frontline, September 15, 2000, and January 15, 1993).
The accused were arraigned for offences under Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) read with Sections13 (2) and 13 (1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA). The PCA sections deal with criminal misconduct by a public servant. AC Muthiah was also charged with offences under Section 109 (abetment) of the IPC.
Justice Y. Venkatachalam of the Madras High Court, on December 15, 1997, directed Jayalalithaa, Chidambaram and Muthiah to pay Rs.28.29 crores to the State government within six months for the losses suffered because of the “collusive” deal. He accepted the DMK government’s statement filed in the court that the government had sustained a loss in the transaction. Justice Venkatachalam directed the CBI to investigate the matter and quashed a Government Order (GO) of March 1992 (when Jayalalithaa was Chief Minister) for the renunciation. The Judge said that the court considered her action “an act of privatisation of SPIC”, adding that “this type of action has to be dealt with firmly”.
The CBI investigated the matter and filed the chargesheet in the Special Court. The court framed the charges on 26 December, 2000. Examination of witnesses began from April 10, 2001.
Special Court Judge R. Rajamanickam acquitted Ramachandran and Muthiah . He said that the CBI had failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt and hence awarded the benefit of the doubt to the accused. He found all the accused not guilty. The Special Judge held that the sanction granted for prosecuting Jayalalithaa and Ramachandran was not valid.
Such was Jayalalithaa’s reach in the Tamil Nadu judiciary that she was acquitted in all cases. That is, until the DMK decided to move in for the kill on the multi crore Colour TV scam.
Throwing acid on IAS officer Chandralekha’s face
The Pleasant Stay Hotel case and the TIDCO-Spic case fall under the same category in which the Jaya-Sasi duo abused political power to grant unlawful and illegal favours to persons for a grand price. The core of the TIDCO-SPIC case was Jayalalithaa’s decision to get TIDCO to disinvest its shares in SPIC which would then be purchased by the junior partner MA Chidambaram and Associates.
VS Chandralekha, a young IAS officer encouraged and promoted by Jayalalithaa’s mentor and former Chief Minister MG Ramachandran, was at the time of the disinvestment imbroglio, the Chairman of Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation or TIDCO. Knowing well that the disinvestment besides being grossly undervalued would also effectively keep the government out of SPIC, the IAS officer resisted fiercely and sounded a strong voice of dissent.
Soon thereafter Chandralekha was attacked allegedly by Jayalalithaa-Sasikala duo’s henchmen and acid was thrown on her face burning and scarring the young IAS officer’s face badly.
Throwing acid on the IAS officer’s face was unmistakably the duo’s message to all officials in government, administration and police not to cross their paths and not to go public with dissent or criticism.
This alone explains why no celebrity has so far gone to the police with any complaint when their homes were seized and misappropriated by Sasikala, Natarajan and their scores of avaricious relatives.
TANSI land acquisition case
Another case in which Jayalalithaa was convicted was the famous TANSI case in which two companies—Jaya Publications and Sasi Enterprises, jointly owned by Jayalalithaa and Sasikala Natarajan, were accused of buying properties belonging to the Tamil Nadu Small Industries Corporation (TANSI).
This case too, pertained to the years 1991-1996 when both ladies had embarked upon an orgy of acquisition of real estate. Wry humour doing the rounds in the city was – the only two pieces of real estate Jayalalithaa and Sasikala could not buy were the Marina Beach and Chennai’s famous landmark of bygone years – the LIC building, which was Chennai’s own Empire State Building.
Dr. Subramanian Swamy went to court alleging that the property was undervalued and sold to the two firms, causing a loss of over 3.5 crores to the state government.
On 9 October, 2000, a judge convicted Jayalalithaa and others in both the cases.
In the Jaya Publications case, Jayalalithaa was sentenced to three years’ rigorous imprisonment and in the Sasi Enterprise case she was given a two year rigorous imprisonment. However, as the terms were concurrent, her sentence was suspended.
Within two months, in December 2001, however, Jayalalithaa was acquitted in the TANSI case along with her acquittal in the Pleasant Stay Hotel case.
Multi Crore TV Scam Case
It was during the DMK regime that Jayalalithaa was first sent to prison. In the multi-crore Color TV scam case, Jayalalithaa was convicted and sentenced for allegedly receiving kickbacks to the tune of Rs 8.53 crores in a 1995 deal for purchase of 45,300 Colour TV sets for village community centres across the state.
Arrested from her Poes garden residence on 7 December 1996 she spent her next 27 days as remand prisoner No. 2529 until 3 January 1997 in the Madras Central Jail. Jayalalithaa was later released on bail. Even as she was in prison, she was also remanded for the ‘Wealth Tax’ case against her.
It was during this prison term that Jayalalithaa’s properties were raided, and sarees, footwear, wildly expensive imported watches, tons of silverware, gold and diamond jewels were seized.
The DMK through their television news channel, Sun TV (owned by the Maran brothers), filmed the seized wealth and showed it to a gawping world. This jaw-dropping wealth – 10,500 sarees, 750 pairs of footwear, watches and jewellery — are currently in safe custody in Bangalore, guarded by Karnataka police.
Disproportionate Assets case
The Rs. 66 crore disproportionate assets case against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa dragged on interminably for over eighteen years, after a number of delays, change of Public Prosecutors and judges.
Apart from the vast collection of evidence and documents, the prosecution has relied heavily on verdicts reached in three cases for handling this case.
State of Madhya Pradesh vs Awadh Kishore Gupta case (2004)
The first is a Supreme Court ruling in the State of Madhya Pradesh vs Awadh Kishore Gupta case (2004) that stated that a public servant’s income can only be proportionate to the returns that he receives from his service, investment or property.
P. Nallammal Vs State Rep. By Inspector of Police (1999)
The second was P.Nallammal Vs State Rep. by Inspector of Police (1999) case wherein the defendant had attributed the excess wealth he had amassed to that acquired through dowry which was a legitimate source of income. However, the court had ruled that any “known source of income” must be “a lawful source”. And since dowry was not a legal source of income’, the wealth was illegal.
Lalu Prasad vs State of Bihar (1998 if disproportionate assets case)
The third and final case which the prosecution drew from was the Lalu Prasad vs State of Bihar(1998) … a disproportionate assets case which ruled that IT returns were not relevant to criminal proceedings.
Accused of having amassed wealth of Rs.66 crore disproportionate to her known sources of income between 1991-96 as chief minister, Jayalaithaa appeared before the court for the first time in the 18 year-old case since the trial was transferred to Bangalore in 2003 by the Supreme Court.
After 18 long years, when Jayalalithaa and Sasikala mocked the judicial process and led the Special Court in Bangalore to a merry dance, Special Judge Michael D’Cunha delivered the landmark judgment which gave all the accused a four year prison sentence besides imposing a fine of Rs. 100 crores on Jayalalithaa, the judge was probably relying on an earlier judgment by the Supreme Court in the KC Sareen vs. The CBI., Chandigarh, 2 August, 2001 where the Supreme Court had observed:
“When a public servant who is convicted of corruption is allowed to continue to hold public office it would impair the morale of the other persons manning such office, and consequently that would erode the already shrunk confidence of the people in such public institutions besides demoralising the other honest public servants who would either be the colleagues or subordinates of the convicted person. If honest public servants are compelled to take orders from proclaimed corrupt officers on account of the suspension of the conviction the fall out would be one of shaking the system itself”.
Judge D’Cunha reiterated the same view when he delivered the judgement against Jayalalithaa in the Disproportionate Assets case when he observed:
“The heady mix of power and wealth is the bottom line of this case. The huge accumulation of wealth by Ms. Jayalalithaa and others in a short span of five years is a telling example of how power would lead to concentration of unlawful wealth, posing a veritable danger to the democratic structure.”
While the sentence and fine imposed on Jayalalithaa pertain only to the years between 1991-96 when she was the Chief Minister and does not touch upon her second and her third term notwithstanding the fact that Sasikala continues to remain an integral part of Jayalalithaa’s household, angry Hindus cannot but recollect her demoniac assault upon the Kanchi Matham and Swamis Jayendra Saraswati and Sankara Vijayendra Saraswati.
The same heady mix of power and wealth drove Jayalalithaa to arrest the Kanchi Sankaracharya on Deepavali day in 2004 followed by the arrest of Swami Bala Periava after Swami Jayendra Saraswati was released on bail. It was generally known that if any court in the country released Swami Jayendra Saraswati on bail, Jayalalithaa would arrest the junior pontiff promptly and cast him in jail. Jayalalithaa lived up to our worst nightmares about her uncontrollable rage, the rage of a woman scorned and thwarted, when a huge contingent of policemen with shoes and boots entered the Kanchi Matham to arrest Swami Sankara Vijayendra Saraswati.
To a pointed question about how policemen can enter the Matham with shoes, Jayalalithaa drunk with power, retorted, “the Matham is not a temple, it is a graveyard” alluding disrespectfully to the fact that Swami Paramacharya’s Samadhi was located inside the Matham premises.
It appears that Jayalalithaa’s demoniac regime has finally ended. To millions of devout Hindus, it would appear that what Jayalalithaa did to the Kanchi Sankaracharyas on Deepavali, the Kanchi Matham’s presiding deity, Kamakshi did to Jayalalithaa in Navratri – when Durga killed Mahishaasura.