SC reserves verdict on Karnataka’s challenge to Jayalalithaa acquittal

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its verdict on the Karnataka government`s appeal challenging acquittal of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and three others in a corruption case even as Karnataka sought attachment of assets of the six companies used for channelizing the alleged ill-gotten wealth.

Counsel for the state told the vacation bench of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Amitava Roy that these companies were used as “receptacles of ill-gotten cash for which no explanation was given during investigation nor during the trial”.

A Bengaluru trial court by its September 24, 2014 verdict had directed the confiscation of the properties registered in the name of six companies to the state government. However, the Karnataka High Court by its May 11, 2014 verdict, had set aside the confiscation.

The Karnataka government had appealed against the high court`s May 11 order reversing the trial court order of September 27, 2014, convicting Jayalalithaa, her aide N. Sasikala Natrajan and her two relatives V.N. Sudhakaran and Elavarasi for allegedly amassing disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs. 66.65 crores during her first term as Chief Minister from 1991 to 1996.

Appearing for Karnataka, senior counsel Sidharrth Luthra told the bench that these companies were acquired with Sasikala Natrajan, Sudhakaran and Elavarasi replacing the erstwhile directors, “after which accounts were opened and a large amount of cash was deposited into these accounts”.

These companies were Indo-Doha Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals, ALex Property Development, Meadows Agro Farms Ltd, Riverway Agro Products, Ramraj Agro Mills and Signora Business Enterprises.

Besides the bank loans that these companies took, Luthra told the bench that these companies were getting funds from Jayalalithaa and Natrajan. “This is a classic case where veil is very thin and one can see through it. These companies were getting funds from A1 (Jayalalithaa) and A2 (Sasikala Natrajan)”, he said.

Appearing for the companies, senior counsel Harin Rawal told the court that the trial court order was passed in the absence of these companies being issued notice or being heard.

He said that the confiscation of the properties registered with six companies under Section 452 of the Code of Criminal Procedure as ordered by the trial court could take place as this provision “does not and can`t apply to them”.

He said that at the most only those properties of the six companies which were acquired through questionable sources of funds could be confiscated but the same has to be determined.

In the course of the last hearing of the appeal on June 1, Karnataka had told the bench that their acquittal was unsustainable both on facts and law and defeated the very purpose of cleansing public life.

It termed the judgment acquitting Jayalalithaa and others as “perverse beyond imagination”, devoid of reasoning and based on “conjectures and surmises”.

The bench in the last hearing had said that the three options that are before it in deciding the matter would be either to uphold the high court verdict acquitting Jayalalithaa and three others, reverse the high court verdict and restore the conviction or still after re-appreciating the entire evidence, direct a fresh trial or remit for the matter to the high court for fresh consideration.

The bench gave time till Friday for all the parties to file their written submissions.