New Delhi: The Karnataka high court judgment acquitting Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa in the Rs. 66 crore disproportionate assets (DA) case is perverse, illogical and illegal with glaring mathematical mistakes and it should be set aside and the conviction of four year imprisonment restored, senior counsel Dushyant Dave argued in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Dave made this submission before a bench of Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Amitav Roy, which took up for final hearing the batch of appeals filed by Karnataka (the state where Jayalalithaa’s trial was shifted), DMK General Secretary K. Anbazhagan and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy challenging last year’s high court judgment acquitting Jayalalithaa, Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Ialavarasi in the DA case.
The judgment in this case is crucial for Jayalalithaa and the AIADMK, ahead of the assembly polls in April/May this year. If the apex court upholds the acquittal it will be a major turning point for her in the elections but if the judgment is reversed and the conviction of four years imprisonment restored, it will be a major political setback for her party as she would not be able to contest the polls.
A single judge of the Karnataka high court, while acquitting Jayalalithaa and the three others, had relied upon a judgment of the apex court in 1977 holding that it would not be an offence if the accused had disproportionate assets which are not more than 10% of known sources of income. As the judge concluded that the fourt were found to have only 8.12%, in excess of their known sources of income, he gave them the benefit of doubt and acquitted them.
At the outset, senior counsel L. Nageswara Rao, appearing for Jayalalithaa objected to the maintainability of the appeals filed by the DMK and Swamy and said they had no locus standi. After Karnataka concludes arguments, they must be permitted to raise this issue, before hearing them, he said.
Assailing the high court verdict, Dave argued that the single judge committed a grave mistake in totalling 10 items of loan by arriving at a figure of Rs. 24,17,31,274 when actually, on proper totalling, the same ought to be Rs. 10,67,31,274 – resulting in an erroneous decision that disproportionate assets formed only 8.12% of the income. He said according to the single judge the disproportionate assets were Rs. 37,59,02,466 and income Rs. 34,76,65,654 and since the DA was only Rs. 2,82,32,812 – which is 8.12% in excess of the income – he was acquitting the accused. If the error in totalling alone is corrected, the disproportionate assets come to Rs. 16,32,36,812 – which is 76.70% of the income.
Dissecting the high court judgment on every aspect, Dave said that if the cost of construction of buildings as admitted by the accused is included in the DA, it comes to Rs. 19,90,89,867 – which is 93.60% in excess; if the Rs. 2,85,05,140, business income of Jaya Publications is included, the DA sum comes to Rs. 22,75,95,007, which is 123.50% in excess, and if the marriage expenses of Sudhagaran, “which is perhaps the marriage of the century” viz Rs. 6,16,36,222 is included, the excess comes to 168%.
judge, Dave said the high court who was due to retire in May 2015, did not even bother to record cogent reasons for reversing the well-considered judgment delivered by trial court judge John Michael D’ Cunha on September 27, 2014. He said that during the relevant period, Jayalalithaa was drawing a salary of one rupee per month. What is significant was she allowed the other three accused, who were staying in her Poes garden house in Chennai, to amass wealth in pursuance of a conspiracy.
He said as per the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the accused must disclose to the appropriate authorities all sources of income but in this case no such information was provided. Even the income tax returns were filed four or five years later and this has been relied on by the high court to acquit them. Citing a number of Supreme Court judgments, he said the approach of the High Court was so casual that it defeats the purpose and object of the PC Act. He said the FIR in this case was registered in 1996 and for two decades powerful people had subverted the cause of justice, which ultimately prevailed in their conviction. Arguments will continue on Wednesday.