J Jayalalithaa, the former chief minister of Tamil Nadu, has asked the Supreme Court to grant her bail so that she can leave the Bangalore prison where she has been Inmate No 7402 since late last month.
Ms Jayalalithaa, 66, was convicted of using the first of her three terms as Chief Minister to illicitly accumulate vast wealth. Her arrest provoked thousands of supporters, who refer to her as “Amma” or “mother”, into mass mourning and violent street demonstrations. Hoping to avoid a repeat of the hysteria on Tuesday when she was refused bail by the Karnataka High Court, the man who replaced her as Chief Minister urged people, “The best way to show your love for Jayalalithaa is to stay calm.”
In her appeal to the Supreme Court, Ms Jayalalithaa’s lawyers have referred to her ill health. When she was convicted, she asked the judge of a Bangalore court to show some leniency. “I was 48, now I am 66,” she had said as the 18-year case against her climaxed.
The judge sentenced her to four years in jail, forcing her to abort her third term as Chief Minister. In a landmark ruling last year, the Supreme Court said law-makers convicted of serious criminal charges can no longer hold office. Unless a higher court over-turns her conviction, she cannot run for election for 10 years.
The case against her, filed first by Subramanian Swamy, now with the BJP, and pursued by Ms Jayalaliathaa’s political rival, the DMK, was transferred to Bangalore in 2001 to ensure the trial would not be influenced by her considerable political heft in her home state.