Amid intensifying power play in India’s southern province of Tamil Nadu, India’s Supreme Court has convicted a top leader of All India Anna Dravida Muunetra Kazagham (AIADMK), a chief ministerial aspirant, in a corruption case.An apex court bench, consisting of Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Amitava Roy, upheld the conviction of 60-year-old AIADMK General Secretary Sasikala to surrender forthwith to a trial court in Bengaluru city in adjacent Karnataka state and serve the remaining part of four-year jail term in the case relating to amassing of disproportionate assets in which late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jairam Jayalalithaa, the film actress-turned-politician, was also convicted in 2014.
The trial court had in 2014 sentenced Sasikala and her two relatives to four years of imprisonment with a fine of Rs 10 crore each (around 1.4 million USD). Jayalalithaa was sentenced to four years with a fine of Rs 100 crore and had to quit as chief minister in the 19-year-old graft case.Sasikala has already served six months imprisonment as part of the trial court sentence before acquittal by the High Court.Jayalalithaa and three others were accused of allegedly amassing disproportionate asserts to the tune of Rs 66.65 crore during her first term as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister from 1991 to 1996.
The apex court verdict, that overturns Karanataka High Court’s acquittal of Sasikala in 2015, put an end to her bid to become the chief minister of the state replacing party colleague O Panneerselvam who occupied the high post following the death of Jayalalithaa on December 5 last.Upholding the trial court order, the apex court said, “Nevertheless, we reiterate that having regard to the facts, the charge framed against them by the trial court is restored.
The Supreme Court, however, abated the appeal proceedings against Jayalalithaa owing to her death.All the convicted persons will have to serve the remaining part of the sentence.The apex court verdict bars Sasikala, who is embroiled in a fierce power struggle within AIADMK against her bitter rival Panneerselvam, from becoming a member of state legislative assembly and consequentially she can’t be chief minister for six years from the date of release of prison under Representation of the People Act. One has to be an elected lawmaker of the provincial legislature to be chief minister under the Indian Constitution.
With the apex court dealing a body blow to Sasikala’s bid to enlist the support of her party lawmakers to be chief minister, the AIADMK camp led by her hit back politically at Panneerselvam expelling him from the party.
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