New Delhi, Nov. 22: The case hanging as Damocles’ sword over Jayalalithaa’s head is making a comeback.
The Supreme Court will pronounce its final verdict in the Tamil Nadu Small Industries (Tansi) land purchase scam case, which had unseated the chief minister in 2001, on Monday.
A division bench of Justices S. Rajendra Babu and P. Venkatarama Reddi will give a unanimous verdict on a petition challenging a Madras High Court order acquitting Jayalalithaa from all charges in the Tansi case, according to the court’s supplementary case list for Monday published this afternoon.
The bench had reserved its judgment in September last year after arguments for and against Jayalalithaa and her companion, Sasikala. Jayalalithaa has told the court, orally through her counsel, that she is prepared to surrender the land she acquired from Tansi. Sasikala, through an affidavit, has stated that she would not only give back the land but also voluntarily forfeit the money she had paid for the plot.
After the 2001 polls, the ADMK came to power and then governor Fathima Beevi swore in Jayalalithaa as chief minister though she was disqualified from contesting after being convicted in the case by a trial court.
On a public interest litigation against the governor’s move, the apex court unseated Jayalalithaa holding that the “Constitution is above even people’s mandate”. Jayalalithaa was forced out. She nominated a chief minister. After the high court quashed the charges, the ADMK chief contested the Andipatti byelection in Madurai and was back as the chief minister within months.
At this juncture, lawyer R. Saibharathi, a DMK activist, and Janata Party president Dr Subramanian Swamy contended before the apex court that as original complainants in the case, they should be allowed to file an appeal against the Madras High Court order acquitting Jayalalithaa. They argued since prosecution rested with the state, it would not pursue the case for the obvious reason that the state is under the person accused in the case. The apex court allowed the petitions and issued notices on which arguments had concluded last September.
Though both Sasikala and Jayalalithaa have expressed their willingness to surrender the land, the judges said it was irrelevant. For, criminal liability, even if the plots were allowed to be surrendered, had to be fixed in the case. Sasikala then filed an affidavit, saying she would surrender the land without taking back the money she had paid for it.
If criminal liability falls on Jayalalithaa, she would be disqualified from contesting for two years. That would mean losing the chief minister’s chair again.