The Supreme Court on Monday acquitted Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in the Tansi land deal case.
A two-judge bench comprising Justice S Rajendra Babu and Justice P V Reddi dismissed the petitions of Janata Party chief Dr Subramaniam Swamy and R Sai Bharathi challenging the Madras high court decision acquitting her in two Tansi cases.
A Chennai court had convicted Jayalalithaa in both the cases and sentenced her to three-year imprisonment in one case and two-year imprisonment in the other.
The bench held that there is no legal evidence to prove Jayalalithaa's guilt.
Stating that high probity in public office was essential for good governance, Justice Babu, writing the judgment for the bench said, "She must atone her conscience in the whole controversy."
"After discussing the trial court and the high court judgments we found no ground to interfere in the high court order as none of the offences alleged have been established by cogent evidence," the bench said. The bench had on September 26, 2002 reserved the verdict on Bharathi's petition.
Referring to the government order, which banned ministers from purchasing government property, the bench said evidence was there to link Jayalalithaa to the crime.
But at the same time the bench said, "We are clear in our mind that if the officers and others become aware of the fact that the chief minister of the state is interested in purchasing some properties, the bureaucracy will be over enthusiastic to see that the sale goes through smoothly and at a price desired by such chief minister."
The prosecution case was that Jayalalithaa, while holding the chief minister's post, had violated the code of conduct and purchased 3.0786 acres of prime land and buildings at Guindy belonging to the state-owned Tamil Nadu State Industries Corporation for Jaya Publications.
The sale of Tansi land had caused a loss of Rs 350 million to the state exchequer as the purchase proceeds were much below the then market rates. Also, the transaction involved evasion of stamp duty and registration fees valued at Rs 4.3 million, the prosecution contended.
Dr Swamy, however, said the court had passed strictures against the chief minister by saying that she should not have purchased the land. He also accused the previous Karunanidhi government of diluting the case.
"Although I got sanction to prosecute, Karunanidhi's government when it came to power in 1996 took away the case from me. Since then they conducted it very badly," he said.
Swamy said the judges have stuck to the letter of the law and not to the spirit of the law.
"Of course, the judges have passed strictures against her and I hope that she really learns from it," he said.
Meanwhile, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam cadres rejoiced the acquittal Jayalalithaa.
The news was welcomed by bursting of crackers and distributing sweets outside the chief minister's Poes Garden residence and in front of the party's headquarters in Chennai.
Senior AIADMK leaders rushed to greet Jayalalithaa at her residence soon after the decision. Reacting to her acquittal, she said, "It is god's will."
"Thanks be to god," she told reporters before leaving for a temple at the suburban Tiruvottriyur to offer prayers.
Following is the chronology of events in the case:
- TANSI- Tamilnadu Small Industries Corporation.
- Jaya Publications and Sasi Enterprises in which Jayalalithaa and Sasikalaa were partners. Purchase Tansi foundry land and Foundry and Tansi Enamel wire unit and land in 1992.
- Charge sheet filed on November 15, 1996 on the ground of loss to state exchequer of Rs 2.28 crores (in foundry property) and 58.88 lakhs (enamel wire factory)
- Charges were framed against six accused, including Jayalalithaa, Sasikala on June 10,1999.
- Madras high court discharges Jayalalithaa on January 13, 2000. On a Special Leave Petition filed by TN government, apex court in April erases Madras HC order and directs Jayalalithaa to face trial.
- On October 9, 2000 trial court convicts Jayalalithaa to three years and two years Rigorous Imprisonment in the two cases on charges of criminal conspiracy.
- In November, Madras HC stays the verdict and not the sentence leading to her debarment from contesting assembly election in 2001 because of three years RI.
- AIADMK sweeps the polls and Jayalalithaa becomes the CM.
- September 21, 2001 -- SC unseats Jayalalithaa holding that disqualified person cannot hold the office of CM.
- December 4, 2001-- Madras HC acquits Jayalalithaa of all the charges.
- Jayalalithaa becomes MLA by contesting in Andipatti constituency.
- In January 2002, SC admits Special Leave Petition by DMK lawyer Bharathi challenging Madras HC order acquitting Jayalalithaa.
- Orders in this case in SC were reserved on September 26, 2002.
With inputs from PTI