Bengaluru: A Bengaluru court on Saturday convicted Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in the 18 year-old disproportionate assets case.
A majority of Jayalalithaa’s ministerial colleagues were in Bengaluru and thousands of AIADMK supported gathered in the city.
Special Court Judge Michael Dicunha delivered the verdict at the makeshift court created at Bangalore central prison at Parappana Agrahara on the outskirts of Bangalore city, which has been provided with multi-layer security cover.
Jayalalithaa’s close aide Sasikala Natarajan, her niece Ilavarasi and her nephew and the chief minister’s disowned foster son Sudhakaran were also convicted under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
The Court is likely to pronounce quantum of sentence at 3 pm.
The case was transferred to Bangalore’s Special Court in 2003 by the Supreme Court on a petition filed by DMK leader K Anbazhagan who had expressed doubts over conduct of fair trail in Tamil Nadu as Jayalalithaa ruled the state then.
Jayalalithaa has been charged with accumulating Rs 66 crore wealth disproportionate to known sources of her income from 1991-96 in her first term as Chief Minister.
If the judge sentences her to imprisonment for a period not less than two years, the AIADMK leader will stand disqualified immediately from the Assembly and may have to step down as chief minister.
Jayalalithaa had to quit as Chief Minister immediately after her swearing in 2001 following the Supreme Court declaring null and void the action of the then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing her as the Chief Minister as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in a corruption case.
O Paneerselvan, a junior Minister handpicked by her, was appointed as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. By 2002, she was cleared of all charges and sworn-in again as the Chief Minister.
The area around the court was turned into a fortress as the platoons of Karnataka State Reserve Police, the city Armed Reserve and the Rapid Action Force were deployed, besides hundreds of police personnel, including those in plain clothes.
A large number of AIADMK supporters had gathered since early morning.
The prolonged trial saw five judges – A S Pachapure, A T Munoli, B M Mallikarjunaiah, M S Balakrishna and John Michael D’Cunha.
The case was transferred to Bangalore’s Special Court in 2003 by the Supreme Court on a petition filed by DMK leader K Anbazhagan who had expressed doubts over conduct of fair trial with Jayalalithaa as Chief Minister.
Security has been increased at the DMK headquarters and residences of its senior leaders. Police said that on a request from DMK, security had been increased at “Anna Arivalayam”, the headquarters of DMK, two residences of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK President M Karunanidhi and the residence of Anbazhagan, party’s general secretary.
Appearing before the court four times, Jayalalithaa has answered 1,339 questions in closed door hearings during which she has maintained that the case was “politically motivated” and “fabricated” at the instance of her rival DMK.
Controversy also swirled around the case after Karnataka Advocate General B V Acharya quit as Special Public Prosecutor and Bhavani Singh came in his place. Questions were raised in the Supreme Court over appointment of Singh also.
The case was filed by Subramanian Swamy in 1996. She was arrested and jailed for some days after DMK came to power in the 1996 Tamil Nadu Assembly polls.
The Karnataka government has so far spent Rs 2.86 crore on playing host to the case, according to documents obtained by an RTI activist.