Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has been convicted in the 18-year-old disproportionate assets case, dealing a huge blow to the AIADMK chief, as she has received a punishment of four years in jail and a staggering fine of ₹ 100 crore. She can move a bail petition in a higher court, but she is likely to be taken into custody immediately.
Jayalalithaa will have to step down as the Chief Minister as she will be disqualified as a member of the legislative assembly.
This judgment will have far-ranging ramifications across the political scene in Tamil Nadu, giving space to rival parties, including the DMK and the BJP to make the most of her absence. However, reports suggest that she has prepared to put in a proxy chief minister in the state who will still be under her control, with the name of finance minister O. Panneerselvam topping the list.
Panneerselvam had been appointed the chief minister under similar circumstances when Jayalalithaa had to step down from the post in 2001when the Supreme Court had ruled her appointment as 'unconstitutional'.
However, the immediate ramifications will be the tense concerns of law and order, both in Bangalore where the verdict was announced, as well as in Tamil Nadu, where AIADMK supporters are expected to get out on the streets to protests against the verdict. In a similar protest in 2000 following a verdict against Jayalalithaa, three college students had been killed by activists in Chennai.
Jayalalithaa, referred to as 'Amma' among her supporters, has a huge base of die-hard supporters and has emerged as one of the most influential leaders in the south India. A former Tamil film actress, she took charge of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party since the death of its founder M G Ramachandran, himself a former chief minister of the state.
She was found guilty in an 18-year-old corruption case filed by rival party DMK against her, along with her former aide V K Sasikala and the latter's family members, accusing them of acquiring disproportionate assets to the tune of ₹66.65 crore by corrupt means between 1991 and 1996 when Jayalalithaa was chief minister for the first time. Her wealth shot up from ₹2 crore despite her income being a mere ₹1 per day in office.
The judgment was given by Special Court Judge Michael Dicunha at the makeshift court created at Bangalore central prison at Parappana Agrahara on the outskirts of Bangalore city, amid a densely tense environment as AIADMK workers protested outside the court premises as well as in Chennai.
Even as the hearing was underway, the Bangalore police had to resort to lathicharging the AIADMK protestors.
Bangalore and Chennai remained tense on Saturday leading up to the verdict as the police had put in tight security measures to prevent untoward incidents in case of violent reactions by AIADMK protestors.