Trial in Karnataka

Published : Mar 12, 2004 00:00 IST



THE Supreme Court rejected on February 17 Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's application for the transfer of the "disproportionate wealth cases" against her and others from a Special Court in Bangalore, Karnataka, to a court in any other State, preferably Andhra Pradesh. In an earlier judgment on November 18, 2003, the court had ordered the transfer of the cases from Chennai to Bangalore. Delivering the judgment, a Bench comprising Justice S.N. Variava and Justice H.K. Sema had said that "there is a strong indication that the process of justice is being subverted" in Chennai and that "it does appear that the new Public Prosecutor is hand in glove with the accused".

Jayalalithaa filed an application requesting a modification of the order, expressing fear about her personal safety in Bangalore. She pointed out that there was a stand-off between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the sharing of the Cauvery river water and that in Karnataka Tamilians had been attacked, the screening of Tamil films had been stopped and a "ban" was in place on the airing of Tamil television channels. She alleged that the atmosphere in Karnataka was "foul and vitiated". The relations between the two States came under strain when the forest brigand Veerappan abducted Kannada film actor Rajkumar, she said.

On February 17, the same Bench rejected her application, saying, "No case is made out for modification of our order [of November 18, 2003]. Justices Variava and Sema said that her apprehensions about the Cauvery water dispute and Veerappan "have got nothing to do with the judicial function..." They pointed to the Karnataka government's affidavit stating that the security of Jayalalithaa and the witnesses would be ensured.

In the first "disproportionate wealth" case, the allegation is that during her tenure as Chief Minister from 1991 to 1996, Jayalalithaa and three of her associates had acquired assets valued at Rs.66.65 crores, which were disproportionate to their known sources of income. As Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa voluntarily drew a salary of one rupee a month. The other accused are her friend Sasikala Natarajan, Sasikala's nephew V.N. Sudhagaran and Sasikala's sister-in-law J. Ilavarasi. The Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC), Tamil Nadu, filed the chargesheet in this case on June 4, 1997 in a Special Court in Chennai (Frontline, December 19, 2003).

In the second case, the accused are Jayalalithaa and T.T.V. Dinakaran, another nephew of Sasikala and the member from Periakulam in Tamil Nadu in the 13th Lok Sabha. The DVAC chargesheet alleged that Jayalalithaa had illegally funnelled funds amounting to Rs.43.98 crores to foreign countries and used them to buy two hotels in the United Kingdom. These hotels were bought by companies floated by Dinakaran.

The two cases were filed when the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) was in power. After the AIADMK returned to power in May 2001, DMK general secretary K. Anbazhagan filed two petitions in the Supreme Court, requesting the transfer of the cases to some other State to ensure a free and fair trial. Thus the cases were transferred to Bangalore.

On February 17, the Supreme Court also accepted the contention that transferring the cases to Pondicherry, as desired by Jayalalithaa, would amount to transferring them from the Madras High Court to a court under the jurisdiction of the same High Court.

T.S. Subramanian
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