Jayalalithaa was on Monday acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in the disproportionate assets case that came as a huge relief to the AIADMK chief that will enable her stage a political comeback and return to the Chief Minister’s post.
Pronouncing the verdict in a jam-packed court, Justice C R Kumaraswamy also acquitted AIADMK’s chief close aide Sasikala Natarajan and her relatives J Elavarasi and V N Sudhakaran, disowned foster son of Jayalalithaa.
As the court proceedings got underway sharp at 11 AM, the judge straightway read out the operative part of the verdict on the appeals filed by Jayalalithaa and three others challenging their conviction by the trial court.
Victory celebrations broke out immediately outside her Poes Garden residence in Chennai where party workers celebrated with bursting of crackers and dancing while flashing victory sign.
Celebrations also broke out across Tamil Nadu with bursting of crackers and breaking of coconuts on Jayalalithaa’s acquittal.
The Karnataka High Court judgement came on an appeal against the judgement of the Special Court Judge John Michael D’Cunha who had on September 27 last year held the AIADMK supremo and three others guilty of corruption and awarded four years jail term, due to which she attracted disqualification as an MLA.
The judge had also slapped a fine of Rs 100 crore on her and Rs 10 crore each on three other convicts.
The lower court judgement automatically disqualified Jayalalithaa as an MLA and unseated her from the chief minister’s post. Now with the High Court’s clean chit, she is expected to assume reins of office in Fort St George.
The judgement comes as a major boost to Jayalalithaa and the AIADMK exactly one year ahead of Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.
The delivery of judgement was brief as a battery of lawyers of Jayalalithaa and small group of AIADMK supporters erupted in joy after the verdict came out in the 19-year old case.
Tight security was in place in the court and outside with prohibitory orders clamped from 6 AM to 6 PM in the one km radius.
“The prosecution case made by the then DMK government now stands dismissed,” a beaming B Kumar, senior counsel for Jayalalithaa told reporters outside the court hall.
The verdict came just a day ahead of the three-month deadline set by the Supreme Court to complete the hearing on appeals by her and three others.
The 67-year old Jayalalithaa was not present in the court when the single judge bench of Justice Kumaraswamy delivered the judgement. According to the Criminal Procedure Code, the accused are required to be present only in the trial court.
After the Special Court had convicted her, Jayalalithaa had moved the Karnataka High Court challenging her conviction and sought bail.
The High Court had denied her bail following which Jayalalithaa moves the Supreme Court seeking bail.
October 17, 2014, the Supreme Court had granted her bail. After 21 days in prison, Jayalalithaa was released from prison on bail on October 18.
The Supreme Court had on December 18 last year extended Jayalalithaa’s bail by four months. A bench headed by CJI HL Dattu had orders that her appeal challenging conviction in Karnataka High Court be conducted on day-to-day basis by a Special Bench.