Losing job the second time

Print edition : October 17, 2014

THIS is the second time that Jayalalithaa has been unseated as Chief Minister following a court verdict. She had to step down as Chief Minister on September 21, 2001, after a five-member Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that her appointment as Chief Minister by Governor M. Fathima Beevi was “not legal and valid”.

On October 9, 2000, Special Judge P. Anbazhagan convicted and sentenced Jayalalithaa to three years’ and two years’ rigorous imprisonment in the Jaya Publications and Sasi Enterprises cases respectively. The cases related to the purchase of land from the Tamil Nadu Small Industries Corporation (TANSI), a State government undertaking, by Jaya Publications and Sasi Enterprises, in which Jayalalithaa and her close friend, Sasikala Natarajan, were partners. The Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) filed the charge sheets in the two cases on November 15, 1996, and October 22, 1997, respectively, alleging that the deals caused a wrongful loss to the government because the land and machinery were bought at undervalued rates. The TANSI properties were bought when Jayalalithaa was the Chief Minister from 1991 to 1996 and she was, therefore, a public servant during that period.

The charge sheets alleged that she “abused her official position at every stage in the transaction” although no public interest was involved. Since she was a public servant (Chief Minister) when she bought the property, she came under the ken of the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act ( Frontline, September 28, 2001 and October 12, 2001).

After her conviction and sentencing in 2000, she was disqualified under Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1951, from contesting the Assembly elections held in May 2001. Yet, Jayalalithaa filed her nomination papers from four different constituencies and was disqualified from contesting in all of them.

But Jayalalithaa’s party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), won a big majority in the elections. In a controversial action, Jayalalithaa was sworn in by Governor Fathima Beevi, a retired Supreme Court judge.

When quo warranto petitions were filed in the Supreme Court, seeking to set aside Jayalalithaa’s appointment, a Constitution Bench, headed by Justice S.P. Bharucha, allowed the petitions on September 21, 2001. “We are satisfied that in the appointment of Ms Jayalalithaa as Chief Minister, there has been a clear infringement of a constitutional provision and that a writ of quo warranto must issue,” Justice Bharucha said. Jayalalithaa stepped down. Revenue Minister O. Panneerselvam took over as Chief Minister. After the Madras High Court acquitted her in the two cases on December 4, 2001, she contested from the Andipatti Assembly constituency in a byelection on February 24, 2002, and was elected. She was sworn in by Governor P.S. Ramamohan Rao on March 2, 2002 ( Frontline, March 29, 2002).

Jayalalithaa lost her job as Chief Minister the second time on September 27, 2014, when Special Judge John Michael D’Cunha found her guilty of corruption in the “disproportionate wealth” case against her.

T.S. Subramanian