Jayalalithaa’s foster son was about to be married , when asked if he possessed a “bangla,gaadi ,TV, fridge, AC, and 1001 lungis, and 10002 bottles of coconut oil” required for leading a happily married life, he simply gave a knowing smile and calmly said uske pass “Ammaa” hai ! “Ammaa” too sponsored his wedding in style! And two decades later “Ammaa”, her moonh bola beta and a moonh lagi dost were still seen clearing the wedding dues in the form of a Disproportionate Assets (DA) case !
Jayalalitha first became the CM of Tamil Nadu (TN), in 1991, after her party, the AIADMK, swept the Assembly and Parliamentary elections. Fondly addressed as “Amma”, she found herself perched as the Prima Donna of TN politics. She progressed with her first term with equal mix of hits and misses and was known for her pro women policies and also the ablity to take a tough stand on contentious issues such as the Cauvery water dispute.
Amul did not miss the import and captured it in one of its first topicals on Jayalalitha ,which was inspired by the stand off between the Karnataka CM , S Bangarappa, and her.
But Jayalalitha’s first term as CM was also conspicuous for her total reliance on her close friend Sasikala and some of the latter’s relatives.Sasikala emerged as the main power broker within the AIADMK. In time businesses and companies with Jayalalitha and Sasikala as stakeholders, went on a land and property acquiring spree and making huge financial transactions. It was at this time that Jayalalitha’s foster son Sudhakaran VN, Sasikala’s nephew, was married in the most ostentatious manner. The marriage found mention in the Guinness Book of Records for the maximum number of guests and the largest ever marriage banquet. The vulgar display of wealth and jewellery by Jayalalitha evoked a lot of negative publicity and curiosity. Her popularity waned tremendously in the wake of the controversial wedding.
Subramaniam Swamy, erstwhile Janata Party President and presently a BJP member, filed a case for investigating Jayalalitha for corruption to investigate the expenses of the wedding as well as other financial and land/ property deals involving her. She was accused of amassing assets worth Rs 66.64 Crores when her known income was estimated to be Rs 3 crore.
In 1996, “Amma” lost the State assembly and parliamentary elections.
The incoming DMK Government formed a special court and pursued the issues against its main political rival and charged her and her associates with corruption, acquiring income beyond their known sources of income, money laundering, benami transactions and land grab through dubious land deals. ”Amma” was eventually arrested in December 1996. The recovery of 28 kgs of gold, 800kgs of silver, 12000 sarees and over a 1000 pair of shoes from her residence was shocking in its mere scale and proportion. Jayalalitha and her associates had a lot of explaining to do.
Amul too was inspired to take out a topical on Jayalaitha’s arrest , which won the 1996 AAREN Awards.
Following the furore Jayalalitha broke all ties with Sasikala and even disowned Sudhakaran as her foster son.She also vowed to abjure from wearing gold ever again.
The case was pursued vigorously for five years. In the interim Jayalalitha’s political fortunes swung once again when she with her 28 MPs.became a crucial partner in the BJP led NDA government of 1998. With waxing fortuneS, “Amma’s” arrogance surfaced once gain and she exerted undue pressures on the coalition government to dismiss the DMK government in TN which was vigorously pursuing the cases against her.Important Income Tax officials investigating the cases against Jayalalitha were also transferred arbitrarily by central ministers belonging to the AIADMK .
The blatant misuse of power by Jayalalitha inspired yet another Amul topical way back in 1998.
Eventually the situation came to a head and “Amma” threatened to withdraw support from the NDA as a sign of her political power. By now This too led to yet another Amul topical on her.
But in 2001 Jayalalitha, in spite of her conviction in the TANSI land case (which was later overturned) and all her histrionics she was back at the helm as CM (it happens only in India). Consequently, scores of witnesses in the DA case resiled and the prosecutors also faced pressure. The case was almost collapsing for lack of evidence when in 2003, senior DMK leader, K Anbazaghan sought and obtained from the Supreme Court of India (SC) the transfer of the case outside of TN. The trial was now to be conducted in Karnataka.
Cut to 28th of September 2014.
18 years, five judges, four Special Public Prosecutors (SPP), one senior counsel, 250 plus witnesses and innumerable dilatory appeals were consumed in arriving at the verdict in the Karnataka trial court of Justice John Michael D’cunha. Jayalalitha along with Sasikala and the other two accused was found guilty of amassing assets and wealth disproportionate to her known source of income, and sentenced to 4 years imprisonment. Jayalalitha was fined Rs 100 crore and the others Rs 10 crore each.
Jayalalitha earned the dubious distinction of being the first sitting CM to be convicted. She was unseated from the CM’s chair and stood disqualified from holding public office for 10 years, four years for the duration of the conviction and six years after its termination. “Amma” appealed against the judgement in the Karnataka High Court (HC) and also applied for bail, which was initially denied but later the SC granted her the same on the condition of a speedy disposal of her appeal in the HC.
All was over for “Amma”. Or so it seemed.
Jayalalitha had been unseated once before in 2001 when she was convicted in the TANSI land case. But back then the conviction was overturned and she was restored to the CM’s chair. And on 11th of May 2015, history repeated itself. Most surprisingly and unbelievably Jayalalitha found herself exonerated and acquitted in the DA case!
“Amma” was back; Mummy Returns! And how!
This Amul ad/ topical on Jayalalitha came out after her acquittal in the DA case. It shows a caricature depicting Jayalalitha, who is flashing her trademark “v” for victory sign and sweets in her hand. She is flanked by another caricature depicting a gleeful O Paneerselvam (again with sweets), who was CM while Jayalalitha stood convicted in the DA case. The Amul Girl is seen offering a bouquet to the elated “Amma”.Other supporters are seen joining in the celebrations in traditional Tamil attire.
The Tag Line ….Chief Amma-inister again… is a play on Jayalalitha political sobriquet and term “Chief Minister”. It is posing the question which all had in mind whether Jayalalitha will now be CM again and how soon?
The Punch Line …Chennai’s choice… is an endorsement of the Amul Butter and is a subtle take on the popularity of Jayalalitha in TN.
In her own words, Jayalalitha had now emerged “like tested pure gold”.
What turned the tide and that too in such a dramatic manner that all it took was a mere 10 seconds for the HC Judge, Justice KR Kumaraswamy ,to announce “Appeal allowed. All charges set aside. All are acquitted.”
18 years of prosecution up in smoke, AND in 10 seconds???
The main constituents of the assets under the scanner were the Sudhakaran wedding expenses, construction costs in Jayalalitha’s Poes Garden residence, acquired properties and the ownership of the seized ornaments, apparels, sarees and footwear. The trial court had estimated the wedding expenses to be approx Rs 6 crore and attributed it all to Jayalalitha, the construction costs were estimated to be upwards of Rs 27 crores, the ornaments and items of footwear and apparel were all accepted as being owned by Jayalalitha and it opined that Jayalalitha had spent approx. Rs 20 crores on the acquisition of properties by paying hidden amounts over and above the sale deed and for this it had relied on the testimonies of various individuals.
And as regards the attributed income; the loans obtained, foreign remittances and other gifts received and assessed income from Jaya Publications and the Grape Farm were disregarded by the Trial Court either in part or toto to arrive at its conclusions and calculations. Most damningly, the documents forwarded by the defence counsel to support various claims of a subscription scheme, “Namadhu MGR”, were deemed to be r an “after thought” as well as “fictitious”. It also did not consider the delayed filing of the income tax by the accused as a clarification on the assets acquired.
The HC on the other hand attributed the wedding expenses to the bride’s side including Sivaji Ganesan, as well as Jayalalitha and its verdict stated that the Prosecution had exaggerated the construction and wedding costs by a whopping Rs 28 crores! The Court also stated that their was no evidence (disregarding the testimony of witnesses as “hearsay”) to prove that Jayalalitha paid over and above the sale deeds to acquire the various properties. And regarding the ornaments, sarees, watches and footwear it said that it wasn’t proven as to when the assets were acquired and also that attributing everything to Jayalalitha when there were three other residents in her house is a faulty premise and thus calculated the total assets to be approx. Rs 37.6 crores instead of Rs 66.64 crores.
For computing the income , the HC included the loans, gifts, remittances and assessed income (as per the defence counsel) from Jaya Publications (including the subscription scheme, where AIADMK party members deposed as witnesses and provided evidence by accepting the scheme) and the Grape Farm and arrived at a figure of approx. Rs 34.8 crores.
In the overall analysis it found that the assets exceeded the income by a “mere” Rs 2.8 crores and since it did not cross the threshold as laid down by the SC in its 1977 judgement on the Krishnanand Agnihotri case, which introduces the concept that disproportionate asset to the extent of 10 per cent deserves no punishment, Jayalalitha and all others were acquitted as the HC felt that the prosecution’s case is not proven beyond reasonable doubt
To add to the irony, the SPP, Mr Bhawani Singh was unable to present oral arguments as he was appointed at the fag end of the SC stipulated time frame for dealing with the appeal, as his predecessor was removed when his appointment was found invalid. What is alarming is that the trial court had ruled most documents forwarded by the defence as not being genuine and the HC has relied on the very same documents for its verdict! How can two judges differ so much on such a crucial issue?
The HC verdict has rendered DA as a grossly vague and nebulous concept. There is a school of thought which says that it’s the nature and social impact of the corruption which has to be taken into account and the auditor’s computing. The SC itself considers corruption as the “enemy of the nation” and has followed a “zero tolerance” policy towards such cases. An appeal against Jayalalitha in the SC is essential for her to not only establish her credentials firmly but also to settle the issue of how to deal with DA cases.
But if left to the politicians even this would not happen.
Karnataka Government dithered till as late as possible to follow the due process of law and file an appeal against Jayalalitha’s acquittal until its legal expert reminded it that not filing an appeal would erode the people’s faith as also of the SC which had entrusted the case to the Karnataka judiciary! By now however Subramaniam Swamy and a social activist, “Traffic” Ramaswamy had already filed appeals to challenge the acquittal.
Jayalalitha’s acquittal was sensational and unprecedented but it all seems so farcical that a conviction can be so easily overturned. It would be fine that instead of such complicated computing Jayalalitha and co. could have simply stated that the entire wedding expenses were on loan, the house was repaired and constructed by donations, the foot wear belonged to angry supporters who hurled them at Jayalalithaa, the land and properties were… well they were simply not theirs and the sarees and ornaments were all gift including everything else that they could not account for! This is how incredulous the whole thing appears today.
The signal this has sent is that the high and mighty can manage almost anything in the Courts of Law. The verdict came close on the heels of the Salman Khan trial where in the actor secured bail, after being convicted of negligent driving, within a mere half an hour of the listing of the appeal. Whereas the common man keeps on languishing under the infamous “tareeq pe tareeq” dialogue from Sunny Deol. After these acquittals it is time Dawood Ibrahim surrendered as he can now have faith in our judicial process. It will firstly drag along for 93 years and surely our “learned” counsels will find a way to keep Dawood out of prison.
In the meantime, “Amma” is back in the CM’s chair amidst tremendous shows of loyalty and sycophancy. She took over on 23rd of May 2015 and is now calling the political shots and there are speculations that she may even order snap assembly polls to ride the wave of sympathy, support and euphoria. The wheels of fortune have truly turned for her and we have to hold our breath till the final act in this saga is played out in the SC.
Mr Paneerselvam, in deference to “Amma”, had refused to use her CM office and let everyone know that he was just a chair warmer! This modern day Bharat will surely be rewarded for his loyal behavior as he went a step ahead of the original Ramayana protagonist. Unlike the original Bharat who ruled on behalf of Lord Rama just as the latter himself would have, Paneerselvam inflicted administrative paralysis in the State. Projects were delayed, no decisions taken, no schemes launched and in particular for Chennai – the metro rail inauguration was delayed till “Amma” won freedom, and all this at the expense of the very people of the State in whose name the likes of Jayalalitha and her cohorts come to power.
Politicians will after all remain just that – politicians!
Meanwhile , in a mere 48 hours of “Amma” returning as CM , the TN Government has announced social welfare and development schemes worth Rs 3000 crores. The administrative paralysis has miraculously disappeared.
Mummy Returns, in style !
Incredible India Indeed !