Unstoppable Indian corruption – Are top leaders free to loot the nation?
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa’s illegal asset case to go to Supreme Court!
It seems corruption with which India has been afflicted badly for years of misrule could stay intact notwithstanding all anti-corruption laws and powerful the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal. It is primarily because the ruling dispensation of India as well as top political parties and politicians promotes this evil as an unwritten policy of Indian corporatist regime.
There is a concerted effort by central government and corporate lords to weaken the Kejriwal’s AAP (Common man’s Party) in Delhi state and obstruct his efforts to cleanse the Delhi polity by containing the corrupt elements.
The governments and political parties refuse to acknowledge that t rampant corruption they are promoting to make wealth illegally harms the nation, hampers the life patterns of common masses.
- Clean chit followed by neat hit
As a crude jolt to ambitions of Jayalalithaa who, upon her acquittal in the historic illegal assets case, retook the rein of Tamil Nadu as CM, Karnataka government has decided to appeal in Supreme Court against the apparently faulty judgment delivered by judge Kumaraswami of Karnataka High Court, acquitting her of all charges.
Ending three-week long suspense, Karnataka government on June 01 has decided to file an appeal in the Supreme Court against acquittal of actress turned Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and three others by Karnataka High Court in the disproportionate assets case.
The decision to challenge the 11 May verdict by Justice C R Kumaraswamy of the Karnataka High Court was taken at a cabinet meeting after the advice by the Special Public Prosecutor in the case B V Acharya and state Advocate General Ravivarma Kumar as also the state Law Department.
The Karnataka Law Minister Jayachandra said that Chief Minister has directed me to file an appeal in the Supreme Court immediately. The Supreme Court had specifically said Karnataka has stepped into the shoes of TN and it is the sole prosecuting agency for all matters related to the disproportionate assets case, he said. Replying to a query, he said Acharya will be the SPP in the case in the apex court. He said the SPP appointed on the direction of the Supreme Court had advised filing the appeal against the wrongful acquittal of Jayalalithaa and three others and even the AG and law Secretary had concurred with it. “And now the cabinet has decided to file the appeal,” he said, adding it was being done “legally on merit”.
In the 11 May verdict that restored Chief Ministership and her right to contest elections to her, Jayalalithaa was acquitted of “all charges” in the 19-year old disproportionate assets case. Three other convicts, including her close aide Sasikala Natarajan, were also given a clean chit by the High Court.
Acquitting Jayalalithaa and three others of “all the charges leveled against them”, the single bench judge Justice Kumaraswamy, in his 919-page judgment, had also quashed the order of the trial court relating to confiscation of the properties both movable and immovable.
On disproportionate assets, the judge had held that “it is relatively small. In the instant case, the disproportionate asset is less than 10 per cent and it is within permissible limit.”
“The percentage of disproportionate assets is 8.12 percent,” the judge had said. Her conviction last year meant that she was automatically disqualified as a lawmaker, but can contest again after her acquittal.
The High Court had held that the judgment and findings recorded by the trial court convicting her and three others suffers from infirmity and it is not sustainable in law and so she was set free. Public prosecutor B V Acharya found the judgment totally flawed with faulty calculations to favor Jaya’s acquittal and advised Karnataka government to appeal in Supreme Court.
In retrospect, Special Trial Court Judge Michael D Cunha had on 27 September last held Jayalalithaa and three others guilty of corruption and awarded four years jail term, due to which she attracted disqualification as an MLA that divested her of Chief Ministership. The judge had also slapped a fine of Rs 100 crore on Jayalalithaa and Rs 10 crore each on three other convicts. Later, as a twist, the Karnataka High Court in Ban galore on 11 May gave a clean chit to the AIADMK chief and her three associates, clearing them of “all charges” in the 19-year-old case, paving the way for return of Jayalalithaa as Chief Minister.
Meanwhile, John Michael Cunha, who as Special Judge of the trial court had convicted Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in a disproportionate assets case, has been appointed as the Registrar General of the state High Court by the Karnataka government. On September 27 last, Cunha had held Jayalalithaa and three others guilty of corruption in the 19-year-old disproportionate assets case and sentenced them to four years in prison and forfeiting her MLA position plus she was disqualified under the Representation of the People Act from contesting elections for a period of ten years—four years from the date of conviction and six years thereafter.
However, Jaya has got everything back with a faulty High Court judgment. Since her conviction was overturned by the Karnataka High Court on May 11, the AIADMK chief returned as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister for the fifth time on May 23.
The Congress and the Karnataka government were apparently in two minds whether to contest the High Court order or not. Apparently, the government too thought itself as a non-stakeholder and didn’t want to earn the wrath of Jayalalithaa and her party. What seems to have prevailed over the initial reluctance of the Karnataka government is the all-round opposition from the Congress. According to some reports, what seem to have prompted the Karnataka government’s decision, after the initial reluctance, are the signals from the corrupt Congress high command that promotes corruption as its key policy. Some reports said that Sonia Gandhi favored an appeal.
Although none reported political reasons behind the Karnataka government’s dilly dallying, it was obvious that the state Congress unit was soft on rich Jayalalithaa, unlike Abdul Nasser Madani, a Kerala Muslim pundit, whom it wants to keep in Bengaluru jail permanently mainly because he does not have crores to bribe. (Pundit Madani was earlier tortured in Coimbatore for 10 long years as a suspect in a bomb blast before the court found him innocent and let him free, but after two years Karnataka state police – presumably under instruction from Congress central government – forcefully took him from home in Kollam, Kerala with help from ruling Communist party. Recently the Supreme Court granted bail on health ground as he has been suffering from multiple problems, including his eye sight. However, Karnataka government got his bail cancelled. Apparently Indian government with a possible colonialist mindset is taking revenge against Muslims for no explicit reasons).
The Karnataka government had a 90-day deadline to file the appeal.
- Another swearing in
Ms Jayalalithaa was sworn in as Chief Minister for fifth time on May 23, after an eight-month break that was forced upon her when a court in Bengaluru found her guilty of amassing wealth beyond her income during her first term in office two decades ago. The ruling AIADMK chief was arrested for three weeks before getting bail from the Supreme Court. She appealed against her conviction in the High Court and won her case this month. The case against her was originally filed in 1996. In 2003, the trial was moved to neighbouring Karnataka to ensure that the politics of Tami Nadu would not influence the proceedings.
Assembly elections are due in Tamil Nadu elections in less than a year. The choice before Jayalalithaa and the AIADMK is to utilize their limited time in office to win them on sympathy wave. Tamil Nadu can expect more pro-poor welfare measures, fair-price initiatives, market interventions and big bang development announcements to win voters’ attention. In fact, she has already begun that. She does not want to give the DMK any chance of returning to power.
When a trial court in Bangalore had found her guilty in September last year it had led to a short period of imprisonment, disqualification as the Chief Minister, and her disappearance from active public life for nearly eight months.
A fresh legal challenge to 67-year old Jayalalithaa has come nine days after she made a triumphant return as Chief Minister with O Panneerselvam making way for her following acquittal by the High Court.
Ms Jayalalithaa, who has now to win a seat in the state assembly within six months of being sworn in chief minister, is contesting a by-election from Radhakrishnan Nagar constituency later this month. Jaya asked the silting AIADMK MLA to quit enabling herself to contest.
AIADMK’s bitter rival DMK had raised the pitch for filing the appeal against acquittal while the original petitioner Subramanian Swamy had also said he would move the Supreme Court if Karnataka does not challenge the High Court verdict. In a way, Karnataka government has preempted both sources wanting to contest the acquittal in the apex court.
Ms Jayalalithaa’s arch rival, former CM M Karunanidhi of the DMK who possibly thinks his time is up in politics, said last week that the Karnataka government must file an appeal against her acquittal. He said in a statement that the DMK too would file its own appeal in the Supreme Court. In the national election last year, the DMK did not win a single seat in Tamil Nadu. Ms Jayalalithaa’s party, the AIADMK, won 37 of the state’s 39, to be the third largest party in the Lok Sabha, (lower house of parliament) after the BJP and the Congress.
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, an eminent lawyer himself at Supreme Court, backed Karnataka Special Public Prosecutor B V Acharya’s advice to file an appeal against the acquittal of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in the disproportionate assets case. His comments in support of appeal in the apex court comes in the wake of Acharya and Advocate General Ravivarma Kumar advising the state government to file an appeal against the acquittal of Jayalalithaa, while the legal cell of ruling Congress in the state advising against filing an appeal.
Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu welcomed Karnataka government’s decision to appeal against Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s acquittal in a disproportionate assets case, with DMK terming it as the “right” step by the ruling Congress. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) President M Karunanidhi, besides other leaders, had been urging Karnataka government to appeal against Jayalalithaa’s acquittal. Tamil Nadu Congress Committee chief E V K S Elangovan lauded his party-led government in Karnataka for “quickly deciding” on approaching the apex court with an appeal before the 90-day deadline. In his reaction, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) founder S Ramadoss, who had written to Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah asking his government to appeal against Jayalalithaa’s acquittal, said: “albeit a little delayed decision, it is a welcome one.” He said he had been insisting that the verdict had “loopholes”. Ramadoss said if Karnataka government had immediately heeded to his demand, “at least Jayalalithaa becoming Chief Minister could have been avoided” by trying to secure a stay against the High Court verdict.
It appears, the entire opposition tries to be united against Jayalalithaa, but BJP seeking to increase its MLAs in the assembly poll, hasn’t been unequivocal. The party’s central leadership seems to have been sufficiently humored, but its state president has been kept out. The BJP, which like Congress party also promotes corruption, also hasn’t made any official statement against the verdict even after the opposition pointed out the alleged errors, hinting at the possibility of an alliance in the next general elections for more assembly seats.
In his order, the High Court judge had said that her unaccounted part was less than 10 percent of the total income, which according to a Supreme Court order, was permissible. Opposition parties such as the DMK and the PMK immediately found gaping errors in the arithmetic that fixed the disproportionate income at less than 10 percent. Once corrected, her unaccounted income would exceed the 10 percent limit by a mile, they pointed out. Acharya, as well as Subramanian Swamy, the original complainant in the case, also advanced the same argument and wanted an appeal against the verdict.
As the Congress government in Karnataka has decided to appeal against the High Court verdict acquitting J Jayalalithaa in a corruption case, which cleared the way for her comeback as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Karnataka government appeal against the High Court verdict in the Supreme Court is the logical development on the issue. The state government Advocate General Ravivarma Kumar pointed out, had 90 days to decide on an appeal, but had done so in about 20 days after the High Court verdict.
Both Karunanidhi and Subramanian Swamy had made it clear that they would go to Supreme Court if the Karnataka government didn’t.
The Karnataka government’s decision to file an appeal against the acquittal of J Jayalalithaa, whose PM dream during the parliamentary poll was crushed by Narendra Modi, may not have surprised the ruling AIADMK and its supremo, but it will certainly bring back the uncertainty over her political future.
Now that this 18-year-old case will move again against Jayalalithaa, it won’t be an easy ride for her. Buoyed by the acquittal, she was back in the office and was moving fast with a number of welfare and development projects ahead of the by-election she is planning to contest. The appeal, which will still take a few days, may even affect her re-election and stint in the office. The Supreme Court is likely to stay the faulty HC verdict.
More trouble seems to be waiting for AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa. The case was fit enough for appeal because the High Court verdict allegedly based itself on wrong financial figures. It has been pointed out that the numbers and the reason for her acquittal do not match. While the special public prosecutor in the case, BV Acharya, who was re-inducted at the last minute, wanted the government to go on appeal, the legal cell of the Congress unit in the state opposed his suggestion.
Correcting the figures without appropriately revising the judgment that was based on the wrong figures wouldn’t have been sustainable. Since the HC couldn’t revise its own judgment, there was no possibility of correcting the figures alone.
If the final verdict goes against her, which is quite logical, the DMK opposition, which is literally out of steam, will have some ammunition in the assembly elections next year. Let that be and court needs not worry about that in the delivery of justice to India which suffers owing to rampant corruption affecting the life of common people.
Supreme Court is expected to give a stay order on the High court judgment and proceed with adjudication. Meanwhile reports suggest the highly influential Jayalalithaa, who deliberately use uneducated poor party people as a political shield, would also file a case in the Supreme Court but no details available.
It appears Jayalalithaa and the government of Karnataka, where Jayalalithaa originally belongs, coordinated their steps with Jayalalithaa assuming office of CM while Karnataka assembly beginning its session. Jayalalithaa knew before hand about the assembly session and decided to be the CM and possibly coerced the Congress government to delay the appeal so that she could be CM albeit for a short period. Her thoroughness needs to be appreciated, however.
It is also quite possible that judge Kumaraswami delivered a quick but faulty judgment in order to help Jaya resume power and reacquire the right to contest. Undoubtedly no one, lawyer or judge, renders such a huge-huge service to billionaire Jayalalithaa for free.
Obviously, a person who powerfully influenced the High court and got all punishments withdrawn is no ordinary manipulator.
Now the focus is on the Supreme Court if it would stay the flawed HC order or let Jayalalithaa enjoy her newly found chief ministership longer. Speculation, as you say, is indeed thrilling.
One, however, has to wait for the final judgment of Supreme Court.