Under the same roof

Print edition : October 31, 2014

Jayalalithaa's residence in Poes Garden. A file picture. Photo: R. Ragu

WHAT has baffled Special Judge John Michael D’Cunha, who presided over the “Jayalalithaa’s disproportionate wealth case”, was why Sasikala Natarajan, V.N. Sudhakaran and J. Ilavarasi were living with Jayalalithaa when the latter was Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister from 1991 to 1996, when they were not even her relatives.

While Jayalalithaa was the first accused in the case, Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Ilavarasi were the second, third and fourth accused respectively. Indeed, the fact that they were living together at 36 Poes Garden, Chennai, which was Jayalalithaa’s residence, helped the prosecution to convincingly argue that Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Ilavarasi conspired with and abetted Jayalalithaa to acquire assets worth Rs.66.65 crore, which was disproportionate to her known sources of income.

In his order, Judge D’Cunha, who refers to the sudden incorporation of 32 companies in which the accused were partners, said that although Jayalalithaa “feigned ignorance” about these firms’ activities, these firms were operating from her residence. It was “an admitted fact” that Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Ilavarasi were residing at Poes Garden along with Jayalalithaa. “It cannot be believed that, being the Chief Minister of a State, she was unaware of the large-scale activities carried on by the persons living in her own house, using her own residential address,” the judge said. Even their voters’ ID mentioned their addresses as the residence of Jayalalithaa. “There is no explanation,” said Judge D’Cunha, from her as to “why” and for what “purpose” Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Ilavarasi were living with her.

“Admittedly, they are not related to her either by blood or by another relationship,” the judge said. The four accused, residing together, “may not by itself lead to the inference that there was a meeting of the mind to pursue the object of conspiracy but the larger question that would arise for consideration is, why did they reside under the same roof with” Jayalalithaa, “when they are not related to each other?” he said.

The stand of Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Ilavarasi was that they were not dependent on Jayalalithaa for a living. They claimed to have independent sources of income. They even asserted that their assets were bought out of their own means and resources. “Then, what made them live with” Jayalalithaa “when each of them had a separate family has not been explained,” the judge said. Jayalalithaa’s claim that mementos and gifts received by her were kept in Sasikala’s house indicated that “there was more than ordinary relationship” between them, the judge said.

The fact that Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Ilavarasi had engaged themselves in constituting firms and acquiring large tracts of land out of the funds provided by Jayalalithaa indicated that all the accused “congregated” in Jayalalithaa’s house “not for social living”; nor did Jayalalithaa give “them free accommodation out of humanitarian concern”, Judge D’Cunha said. But the facts and circumstances proved in evidence undoubtedly showed that Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Ilavarasi were accommodated in Jayalalithaa’s house pursuant to the criminal conspiracy hatched by them to hold Jayalalithaa’s assets, he ruled.

The flow of money from one account to other accounts established beyond doubt that all the accused had “actively participated in the conspiracy to launder the ill-gotten wealth” of Jayalalithaa for buying properties in the names of firms and companies acquired by them, the judge held.

T.S. Subramanian

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