New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi is of the view that former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s acquittal in a high-profile corruption case must be challenged in the Supreme Court, party sources told The Wire on Thursday. Given the nature of the original charges and the arithmetical infirmities in Monday’s High Court order acquitting her, the sources said, the party believes its image will take a beating if the government it runs in Karnataka fails to move an appeal.
Though the charges against AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa pertain to offences allegedly committed in Tamil Nadu, the case was tried in a Karnataka court after leaders from the rival DMK successfully petitioned the Supreme Court for a change in venue on the grounds that she would influence the course of the trial otherwise.
The SC also ordered that the special prosecutor in the case be appointed by the Karnataka rather than TN government. After Jayalalithaa’s conviction last September, however, the TN government managed to assume responsibility for prosecution during the High Court appeal. The Supreme Court intervened to insist Karnataka must handle the prosecution, but by then, oral arguments had already ended and the prosecutor brought in at the last minute by the State of Karnataka, B.V. Acharya, had no time to press his arguments.
Acharya has since pointed to arithmetical errors in the acquittal order in which the Karnataka High Court judge, C R Kumaraswamy, concluded that Jayalalithaa’s disproportionate assets amounted to only 10 per cent of her income and that hence her conviction was not warranted.
Asked why the government of Siddaramaiah in Karnataka allowed the AIADMK-run State of Tamil Nadu to take over the case in the High Court, the Congress sources denied there were any instructions from the party’s high command. This must have happened because of some problem at the state level, they claimed.
Whatever the truth, now that all the details have come to light, the Congress apparently does not intend to be saddled with the reputation of being the party that let Jayalalithaa off the hook in a corruption matter. Congress workers in Tamil Nadu are also really upset that no announcement has yet been made about the appeal, the sources said, adding that the Karanataka government was likely to announce its intention of moving the SC shortly.
Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi telephoned Jayalalithaa soon after the acquittal to congratulate her, Sonia Gandhi and top Congress leaders have maintained their silence.