CHENNAI -- In a major setback for AIADMK General Secretary V.K. Sasikala, who was aspiring to be the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, the Supreme Court on Tuesday restored her conviction in a disproportionate assets case.
Restoring the judgment of the trial court convicting and sentencing her and her two relatives - V.N. Sudhakaran and Elavarasi, a bench of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Amitava Roy set aside a Karnataka High Court order acquitting the three and late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa.
The immediate fallout of the top court verdict is that Sasikala is out of the electoral field for 10 years - four years when would be in incarceration and six years of disqualification under the Representation of Peoples Act after her release.
Restoring the trial court judgment "in full, including consequent directions", Justice Ghose said that Sasikala and two others would surrender to the trial court, which will take immediate steps for them to serve their remaining sentence.
The pronouncement of the much- awaited verdict in the apex court, which decided the fate of AIADMK General Secretary V K Sasikala in the disproportionate assets case, was completed in about eight minutes.
The two judges, Justices P C Ghose and Amitava Roy, reached the dias at 10:32 am in Court Number 6, which was jam-packed with a large number of advocates and media persons.
After the seal of the voluminous judgement was opened by the court staff, the two judges held discussion for a few moments.
Amid pin-drop silence, Justice Ghose, before pronouncing the judgement, said "You can understand too much of fatty judgement. We have taken the burden on us."
Immediately thereafter, Justice Ghose began reading the operative part of the judgement. It was over by 10:40 am.
No sooner had Justice Ghose finished with reading the judgement, the silence of the courtroom turned into hustle and bustle with scribes and some advocates rushing out to give out the deliberation of the courtroom drama.
Amidst this scenario, Justice Roy said he was making a supplementary judgement in concurrence with Justice Ghose. "We have expressed deep concern about escalating menace of corruption in the society," Justice Roy said.
Sasikala was elected AIADMK Legislature Party Leader on 5 February, paving the way for her becoming Chief Minister. Two days later, Pannerselvam rebelled against her.
Minutes after after the apex court delivered the verdict, Sasikala went into a huddle with her MLAs to decide on the future course of action.
Sasikala then sacked Panneerselvam, who has been continuing as caretaker Chief Minister, and 19 leaders from the party, from the AIADMK's primary membership.
All of them were dismissed on charges of acting against the party's policies and principles.
Those sacked included School Education Minister K. Pandiarajan and former ministers C. Ponnaiyan, P.H. Pandian, Natham R. Viswanathan, K.P. Munusamy and P. Mohan.
In fast paced developments, Sasikala loyalist Edappady K Palaniswami was then elected as Legislature Party Leader following the conviction of the AIADMK general secretary.
"We have sent a letter staking claim to form Amma's government," said Palaniswami.
His election came at an emergency meeting called by Sasikala at a resort here within hours of the Supreme Court convicting her in the disproportionate assets case.
Palaniswami, a known Sasikala loyalist and a five-time MLA, is the party's strongman from Salem district and currently holds the portfolios of Highways, Public Works and Minor Ports. He was Minister in the previous Jayalalithaa-led cabinet also and continued with the same portfolios. He was retained in 2016, both by Jayalalithaa and later by her successor Panneerselvam, who has since raised a banner of revolt against Sasikala for allegedly forcing him to step down from chief ministership.
Additional police personnel have been deployed in and around the resort amid expectations that Sasikala will leave for Bengaluru to surrender in the trial court as per the apex court order.
Representatives from Panneerselvam camp are likely to visit the resort where party MLAs loyal to V K Sasikala are put up, in an apparent bid to garner support for the chief minister.
Sources in the Panneerselvam camp said the delegation of MLAs and senior leaders could include School Education Minister K Pandiarajan and that they were planning to meet their colleagues put up at the resort in Koovathur, about 80 kms from here.
Security has already been tightened at the resort with more police personnel being deployed.
There are 10 MLAs in the Panneerselvam camp, including himself. He also enjoys the support of 12 MPs, including from both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
One of the MLAs, who joined the Chief Minister's camp last evening, SS Saravanan from Madurai (South), had claimed even legislators not with him would vote for Panneerselvam in the event of a floor test.
An unfazed O Panneerselvam camp later rejected the appointment of Sasikala loyalist Edappady K Palaniswami as AIADMK Legislature Party leader.
"Nobody has the authority to elect anybody," was the terse response from School Education Minister K Pandiarajan, a supporter of Panneerselvam.
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