Supreme Court today convicted AIADMK ad-hoc General Secretary VK Sasikala in a 19-year old disproportionate assets case that also involved late former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. In the court’s verdict in the case, Ms Sasikala and her two relatives were found guilty under Prevention of Corruption Act.
A bench of justices PC Ghose and AK Roy directed them to surrender forthwith to the trial court in Bengaluru and serve the remaining part of the four year jail term. The AIADMK General Secretary cannot also contest elections for the next 10 years. The bench, however, abated the appeal proceedings against Ms Jayalalithaa owing to her death.
The apex court set aside Karnataka High Court’s order which had, in May 2015, overturned a trial court’s verdict exonerating Ms Jayalalithaa and Ms Sasikala. Karnataka government had challenged the High Court verdict in the Supreme Court.
Today’s verdict disqualifies Sasikala from becoming a legislator, and she can’t be the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister either. She is locked in a power struggle with acting Chief Minister O Panneerselvam over government formation in the state. Ms Sasikala was elected as the AIADMK’s legislature party leader last week, paving way for her to become the Chief Minister. Panneerselvam had, however, revolted against Ms Sasikala saying he was forced to resign.
VK Sasikala faction elected the serving PWD minister Edappadi Palaniswamy as the new Legislature Party Leader. He was elected by MLAs owing allegiance to Ms Sasikala in a meeting held at the Kuvathur resort near Chennai. Ms Sasikala was also present in the meeting. The letter endorsing Mr Palaniswamy as the new legislature party leader has been sent to Governor Vidyasagar Rao. The legislators also removed O Panneerselvam from the primary membership of the party.
Meanwhile, Mr Panneerselvam has appealed to all AIADMK MLAs and cadres to unite together in the prevailing situation to continue the works left by Ms Jayalalithaa. Following the apex court verdict, he issued a statement promising that there would not be any hesitation from his side to give due importance the leaders of the party were so far enjoying. He has also asked his party cadres not to fall into the ploys of the opposition that tries to create division in the AIADMK. Heavy posse of police personnel are deployed near the beach side resort where Ms Sasikala and her party MLAs are staying.
Principal opposition party the DMK’s working president MK Stalin has welcomed the apex court verdict saying justice has been done in the case. He told media that the judgment would remain a lesson for all politicians. PMK founder Dr Ramadoss has said Tamil Nadu has been spared from a possible political mishap. The VCK chief Thol. Tirumavalavan has favoured fresh elections to the state Assembly.
BJP has termed the verdict as historic. Talking to AIR, party General Secretary Murlidhar Rao said, the verdict will have consequences for Tamil Nadu polity and will also have an impact on national politics. He said, AIADMK has to introspect and select a leader who can provide clean politics and administration. Mr Rao said BJP will support any constructive move in the interest of Tamil Nadu. Congress has said, the Tamil Nadu Governor must call a special assembly session and both the AIADMK factions. Talking to media, party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, this is the only way forward.