'Heady mix of power and wealth is the bottom line' in Jaya DA case: Court

 "Heady mix of power and wealth is the bottom line of this case," the Special Court that gave a watershed verdict sentencing AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa and three others to four years in jail in the disproportionate assets case has said.

PTI| Updated: Oct 01, 2014, 20:31 PM IST

Bangalore: "Heady mix of power and wealth is the bottom line of this case," the Special Court that gave a watershed verdict sentencing AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa and three others to four years in jail in the disproportionate assets case has said.

"Huge accumulation of wealth in a short span of five years (1991-96) is a telling example of how power would lead to a concentration of unlawful wealth posing veritable danger to democratic structure," Judge John Michael D'Cunha said in his 1136 page order.

In the verdict delivered on Saturday last that unseated Jayalalithaa from Chief Ministership, making it the first case of conviction of the person holding that post, the judge has also slapped a staggering fine of Rs 100 crore on her and Rs 10 crore on three other accused.

It was proved in evidence that, at the time of commencement of the check period (1991-96), Jayalalithaa was in possession of total assets worth Rs 2,01,83,965.53 including the assets of the partnership of Jaya Publications and Sasi Enterprises, the judge said.

But, it noted, by the end of April 30,1996, her total wealth had risen to Rs 53,60,49,954.00 against her legitimate income of Rs 9,91,05,094. "This value is not the present market value of the assets".

It should be noted that the value of the disproportionate assets possessed by the accused are determined on the basis of the actual cost incurred by them for acquisition of properties and assets from 1991 to 1996, the order said.

That was the time when the accused could buy 900 acres of plantation land for Rs 7.50 crore and ordinary agricultural land for just Rs 10,000 per acre, the judge said.

At the rate, the entire village could have been purchased for Rs 53 crore, he said, adding, that the magnitude of the assets acquired by the accused have to be viewed in that background.

Even otherwise, he said, the total extent of land purchased by the accused either in their individual names or in the name of the firms and companies comes to nearly 3,000 acres, whose present market value "is left to our imagination."

Jayalalithaa's aide Sasikala (A-2), her relatives V N Sudhakaran (A-3), disowned son of the former Chief Minister, and J Elavarasi (A-4) are the other accused in the 18-year old case that was transferred to Bangalore in 2003 at the directive of the Supreme Court.

While deciding the quantum of sentence another aspect to be taken into consideration is the manner in which the assets were acquired by the accused, the judge said.

It was established in evidence that three other accused, close associates of Jayalalithaa, had actively abetted the commission of offence by holding substantial portion of the assets in their names and in the partnership firms constituted by them, the judge said.

"I have come to the conclusion that these firms were constituted only to syphon off the unlawful resources accumulated by A1 (Jayalalithaa)," he said.

It was held that none of the accused contributed any share to the capital of the firms or carried on any business in the name of the firms.

The only activity carried on by the firms was to open bank accounts and get transfer of money from the accounts of Lilith and invest them for purchase of huge properties for and on behalf of her, the judge held.

Added to that, it was proved that in furtherance of the conspiracy and "common design" of the accused, Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Elavarasi even bought defunct companies, opened accounts in the name of the companies and acquired vast properties in the name of these companies out of the funds provided by Jayalalithaa, according to the judge.

"It is proved beyond reasonable doubt that source of all these acquisitions is provided by A1(Jayalalithaa) which she could not satisfactorily account. Thus the prosecution has brought home the guilt of all the accused for all the offences charged against them," the judge said.

The judge noted that the Prevention of Corruption Act provides for stringent punishment for the proved offence under the Act. Section 13(2) of the Act lays down that "any public servant who commits criminal misconduct shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall be not less than one year which may extend to 7 years and shall also be liable to fine."

"The Act has purpose to serve", the judge said.

When the legislature intends to eradicate corruption by providing for deterrent punishment, it was the duty of the court to effectuate the purpose of the Act, he said.

In the instant case, the judge said, what aggravated the offence is that Jayalalithaa was occupying a high position in the government of the state of Tamil Nadu. It was often observed "just as those at high places behaved, so others below,", he said.

"If persons holding higher positions indulge in corruption not only those below get encouraged to indulge in corruption but also the person holding higher position will not be in position to exact honesty from them or to take action against delinquent officials," the judge observed.

Added to that, it was proved that in furtherance of the conspiracy and "common design" of the accused, Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Elavarasi even bought defunct companies, opened accounts in the name of the companies and acquired vast properties in the name of these companies out of the funds provided by Jayalalithaa, according to the judge.

"It is proved beyond reasonable doubt that source of all these acquisitions is provided by A1(Jayalalithaa) which she could not satisfactorily account. Thus the prosecution has brought home the guilt of all the accused for all the offences charged against them," the judge said.

The judge noted that the Prevention of Corruption Act provides for stringent punishment for the proved offence under the Act. Section 13(2) of the Act lays down that "any public servant who commits criminal misconduct shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall be not less than one year which may extend to 7 years and shall also be liable to fine."

"The Act has purpose to serve", the judge said.

When the legislature intends to eradicate corruption by providing for deterrent punishment, it was the duty of the court to effectuate the purpose of the Act, he said.

In the instant case, the judge said, what aggravated the offence is that Jayalalithaa was occupying a high position in the government of the state of Tamil Nadu. It was often observed "just as those at high places behaved, so others below,", he said.

"If persons holding higher positions indulge in corruption not only those below get encouraged to indulge in corruption but also the person holding higher position will not be in position to exact honesty from them or to take action against delinquent officials," the judge observed.