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Jaya turns to song and dance

Chennai, Nov. 18: Just last week, Jayalalithaa had said her government would bring in a resolution during January’s Assembly session demanding that the S.M. Krishna regime in Karnataka be dismissed for ignoring the directives of the Supreme Court and the Cauvery tribunal to release river water to Tamil Nadu.

But today’s Supreme Court order transferring two disproportionate assets cases against her to Karnataka has ensured that the chief minister will have to appear in the witness box there at least once. Jayalalithaa will have to depose in Karnataka in the cases brought against her for allegedly amassing Rs 66 crore assets during her 1991-96 tenure as chief minister.

Even so, the chief minister appeared unfazed at the turn of events, sitting through a state police-organised music and dance programme at which President’s and Tamil Nadu medals were handed out.

The Jayalalithaa-musicians association goes back a long way, with artistes like A.R. Rahman and Gangai Amaran having been ordered to depose in the disproportionate assets cases. Rahman had performed at the mega wedding of the chief minister’s foster son Sudhakaran with Sathyalakshmi, thespian Sivaji Ganesan’s granddaughter.

Today’s ensemble, choreographed by dancers Kala and Bharathi, was marked by a vow to erect a Rs 5 lakh memorial for the nine police personnel who were killed along with Rajiv Gandhi at Sriperumbudur in May 1991.

Jayalalithaa looked rather pleased right through the show which began with a brief Saraswati Vandana and was followed by men and women clad in colourful costumes dancing to a haunting melody from an old M.G. Ramachandran film Ananda Jyothi.

But arguably, her mind must have been on the wealth cases that are pending against her, her friend Sasikala, and the latter’s relatives including Sudhakaran, Ilavarasi and T.T.V. Dinakaran. The last is now a Lok Sabha ADMK MP.

A special court was constituted here by the previous DMK Government to hear the corruption cases. The hearings began in 1997 and continued till 2000, by when nearly 200 witnesses had been examined.

The government summoned a record 1,053 witnesses, besides adducing to more than 1,000 documents including property-related papers, to testify to the wealth allegedly acquired by Jayalalithaa and her associates.

Realising that only 200 witnesses had been questioned in three years, the prosecution in 2000 decided to speed up matters by limiting the additional witnesses to 60 of the “most important people”. The trial then proceeded in the special court of Justice Arumuga Perumal.

But with the ADMK coming to power in May 2001m, things slowed down again. Prosecution lawyers handling the case resigned as per the custom; chief investigating officer Nallama Naidu retired from service and a new investigating officer was appointed.

Justice Rajamanickkam took over as the new judge of the special court hearing the wealth case. Unlike other accused, Jayalalithaa never appeared in court — she replied to questions through her lawyer.

As final arguments were being heard in the case, Naidu caused a stir by making allegations against the government.

It was around this time that DMK general secretary K. Anbazhagan filed a petition in the Supreme Court asking for the trial to be shifted out of Tamil Nadu. During this period, many witnesses contradicted their testimonies.

A few months ago, the Supreme Court stayed all proceedings in the special court pending its final verdict.

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