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No force can separate me from AIADMK, says Sasikala in first appearance after conviction in DA case

The fate of AIADMK general secretary Sasikala Natarajan, fighting a bitter power battle with Tamil Nadu caretaker CM O Panneerselvam after the demise of Jayalithaa, will be decided today as the Supreme Court is all set to deliver the much-awaited ver
India TV Politics Desk New Delhi February 14, 2017 23:59 IST
India TV Politics Desk

AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala, convicted in a disproportionate assets case by the Supreme Court, today said her thoughts will continue to remain with the party even from inside the jail. 

"Only I can be jailed, not the care or concern I have for this party. Wherever I will be, my thoughts will be here," said an emotional Sasikala. 

She said she will be thinking about the party round the clock. 

She said the present case was "filed" by DMK and asked the partymen to strongly resist it. Sasikala also said she was happy in a way that 

Jayalalithaa was not alive to "face difficulties," although she said she was not bothered to undergo such problems. 

In her address to party MLAs hours after her conviction, Sasikala also stressed the need for staying united and exuded confidence that Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao would invite her party to form the government. 

Earlier, newly elected AIADMK legislature party leader Edappadi K Palaniswami had met Rao and staked claim to form government. 

"For me, to form government, to set up Amma's memorial, you should remain united," she said. 

Sasikala, who later left the resort where party MLAs loyal to her were put up, said no force can wean away AIADMK from her.

Jayalalithaa's niece to work with Panneerselvam

Ending days of speculation on whether she would join hands with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, Deepa Jayakumar, late Jayalalithaa's niece, today said she would work with him as if they are "two hands of the AIADMK". 

Exactly a week after he announced that he was forced to quit as Chief Minister, Panneerselvam, flanked by MLAs and MPs in his camp, paid a visit to late Jayalalithaa's burial site at Marina and offered homage. 

Minutes after his arrival, Deepa also reached the venue and jointly paid homage to the late Chief Minister at the burial site for about 20 minutes. 

"We will work together jointly as two hands of AIADMK in future for the people of Tamil Nadu. He asked for justice. I too ask the same," Deepa told reporters. 

Education Minister K Pandiarajan, former Electricity Minister 'Natham' Viswanathan, AIADMK MPs including V Maitreyan, senior party leaders C Ponnaiyan and E Madhusudhanan were also at the memorial. 

After paying homage Deepa went to the house of Panneerselvam at Greenways Road and was given a traditional welcome by family members of the Chief Minister. 

Recently Panneerselvam had said Deepa and her brother Deepak were the only blood relations of Jayalalithaa. 

"When Amma's mortal remains were in the hospital on the night of December 5, she (Deepa) was not allowed to pay her respects even at that time," he had alleged.

Palaniswami stakes claim to form govt 

Newly elected AIADMK Legislature Party Leader Edappadi K Palaniswami today met governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao and staked claim to form the government. 

In his brief meeting with the Governor, Palaniswami presented a list of MLAs supporting his claim. 

Some senior leaders and ministers also accompanied Palaniswami, according to sources. 

Palaniswami greeted the governor with a bouquet. He was elected AIADMK Legislature Party leader replacing V K Sasikala shortly after the Supreme Court convicted her in the disproportionate assets case. 

Last week, the Governor had met Panneerselvam and later Sasikala, who had staked claim to form the government. 

It was not known how many MLAs attended the legislature party meeting chaired by Sasikala earlier in the day. 

The Madras High Court was yesterday informed by the state public prosecutor that 119 AIADMK MLAs were staying in the resort, near here, on their own volition.

Later, Rajya Sabha MP V Maithreyan and Manoj Pandian, supporters of Panneerselvam, also met the Governor at the Raj Bhavan and held discussions. 

It was immediately not known what transpired in the meeting. 

Panneerselvam camp rejects Palaniswami's election

An unfazed O Panneerselvam camp today 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. 

He was responding to reporters' queries to Palaniswami being elected the Legislature Party leader, hours after the Supreme Court upheld a trial court verdict against AIADMK General Secretary Sasikala in a disproportionate assets case. 

Palaniswami was elected at a meeting of party MLAs chaired by Sasikala held at a resort, where the legislators have been staying for last few days following the revolt by Panneerselvam.

Conspiracy was hatched at Jaya's Poes Garden residence: SC 

Earlier today, the Supreme Court said that Chennai's Poes Garden, residence of late J Jayalalithaa, was the hub of conspiracy and the 
money flow from one account to another proved the existence of an "active conspiracy" to launder the then Chief Minister's "ill-gotten wealth" to purchase properties in the names of the shell companies. 

The apex court said V K Sasikala and her two relatives -- V N Sudhakaran, Jayalalithaa's foster son, and Elavarasi, the widow of Sasikala's elder brother, resided at Poes Garden with Jayalalithaa "without any blood relation between them". They were "accommodated" there, not on humanitarian concern, but pursuant to the conspiracy hatched by them. 

"The flow of money from one account to the other proves that there existed active conspiracy to launder the ill-gotten wealth of Jayalalithaa for purchasing properties in the names of the firms," a bench of Justices P C Ghose and Amitava Roy said while convicting Sasikala and her relatives in the 19-year-old disproportionate assets case. 

"The joint residence of all the accused persons also could not be ignored as a factor contributing to the charge of conspiracy and abetment, when assessed together with the attendant facts and circumstances reinforcing the said imputations," the bench said. 

"The unimpeded, frequent and spontaneous inflow of funds from the account of Jayalalithaa to those of the other co-accused and the firms/companies involved, overwhelmingly demonstrate the collective culpable involvement of the respondents in the transactions in the face of their overall orientations so as to render the same to be masked banking exchanges though involving several accounts but mostly of the same bank. No other view is possible," the apex court said. 

The bench said these companies were "operating" from Poes Garden and "it cannot be accepted that she (Jayalalithaa) was unaware of the same even though she feigned ignorance about the activities carried on by Sasikala and two others. They were residing with Jayalalithaa without any blood relation between them". 

The bench held that though Sasikala and her relatives had claimed to have independent sources of income, the fact regarding setting up of these firms and acquisition of large tracts of land out of the funds provided by Jayalalithaa indicated that there was a conspiracy among them. 

This indicated "that, all the accused congregated in the house of Jayalalithaa neither for social living, nor Jayalalithaa allowed them free accommodation out of humanitarian concern, rather the facts and circumstances proved in evidence undoubtedly point out that Sasikala and her two relatives were accommodated in the house of Jayalalithaa pursuant to the criminal conspiracy hatched by them to hold the assets of Jayalalithaa," it noted. 

The apex court also said that the conspiracy cannot be proved by direct evidence and has to be essentially inferred from the proven circumstances, "the ultimate conclusion with regard thereto has to be deduced from the attendant state of affairs cumulatively taken".
 
"It is a trite proposition that in the case of conspiracy, each member thereof becomes the agent of the other and in law is bound by their actions inter se," it said. 

The bench further said that so far as Jayalalithaa and Sasikala are concerned, "one is the agent for other as partners of two firms and additionally Sasikala is the attorney of Jayalalithaa and is a co-conspirator, as imputed". 

It referred to the statement of a prosecution witness and noted that a "blanket instruction" was issued by Jayalalithaa that the directions made by Sasikala from time to time "ought to be followed and consequently the latter was to decide in which account the huge cash deposits were to be made". 

"The numerous inter accounts transfers would only corroborate massive unaccounted cash deposits being made, the origin whereof had been number 36, Poes Garden, Chennai. For all intents and purposes, these accounts were construed to be one," the bench noted. 

Combative Sasikala expels Panneerselvam, 19 others

Cracking the whip, AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala today expelled rebel leader O Panneerselvam and 19 other senior leaders from the party's primary membership. 

The decision came on a day Sasikala loyalist Edappady K Palaniswami was elected the Legislature Party Leader in her place soon after the Supreme Court convicted her in the disproportionate assets case dealing a blow to her hopes of becoming chief minister.
 
The expulsion marks another twist in the week-long saga ever since Chief Minister Panneerselvam rebelled against Sasikala alleging he was forced to step down to give way to her. 

She had called him a betrayer and had accused him of colluding with DMK. 

A combative Sasikala today said Panneerselvam, who is the caretaker Chief Minister, had "gone against the party principles and brought disrepute" as she announced his expulsion and that of his sympathisers. 

With this step, Sasikala intends to stall any challenge to Palaniswami, who will stake claim to form government. 

The others who were sacked along with Panneerselvam include School Education Minister K Pandiarajan, a founding member of the party and spokesperson C Ponnaiyan, former Ministers KP Munusamy, Natham R Viswanthan, KA Jayapaul and P Mohan, former Speaker PH Pandian and his son Manoj, and minority wing functionary JCD Prabhakar, also a former MLA. 

She also announced the sacking of some former MLAs. 

The Panneerselvam camp, however, said Sasikala did not have the authority to sack him, and that she had "no moral or legal authority to do so". 

"They (Sasikala) have no legal or moral authority to suspend anybody from the party," Pandiarajan said, adding, they also had no right to elect anybody as Legislature Party leader. 

SC convicts Sasikala in corruption case, CM hopes dashed 

AIADMK chief V K Sasikala's hope of becoming chief minister of Tamil Nadu was today dealt a body blow with the Supreme Court upholding her conviction in a corruption case, a verdict that bars her from contesting polls for nearly 10 years. 

A close aide of late chief minister J Jayalalithaa, 60-year-old Sasikala, who is locked in a bitter struggle for power in the ruling AIADMK with Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, was ordered to surrender forthwith and serve the remaining part of her four-year jail term. The AIADMK general secretary has already served almost six months in jail. 

In a keenly awaited verdict in the 19-year-old disproportionate assets case that also involved Jayalalithaa which will have a direct bearing on the political uncertainty that has gripped the state for the last 10 days, the court restored in toto the judgement and the findings of the trial court in Bengaluru which held all the accused including Sasikala's two relatives, V N Sudhakaran and Elavarasi guilty. 

The two-judge bench comprising Justices P C Ghose and Amitava Roy directed Sasikala and the two relatives to surrender forthwith to the trial court in Bengaluru and serve the remaining part of four-year jail term. 

The verdict disqualifies Sasikala from becoming a legislator and consequentially she can't be chief minister either for six years from the date of release of prison under the Representation of the People Act. 

Police presence was stepped up at a resort about 80 km from Chennai, where MLAs supporting Sasikala have been housed since the past few days. Sasikala herself stayed overnight at the resort. 

The bench read the operative portion of the voluminous judgement saying that "according to the materials and evidence place on record, we set aside the judgement and the order of the high court and affirm in toto the judgement and order the trial court convicting the accused persons." 

The bench said since Jayalalithaa has expired, the proceeding against her is abated. She died on December 5. 

"Nevertheless, we reiterate that having regard to the facts, the charge framed against them by the trial court is restored," the bench said. 

"Since the charges framed by the trial court have been restored against all of them they will surrender forthwith before the trial court and serve the remaining part of the sentence," it said. 

Minutes after the Supreme Court verdict, the AIADMK appeared to defend her, saying she had always carried the burden of the late Jayalalithaa. 

"Whenever there had been burden for Amma (Jayalalithaa) she (Sasikala) had taken it on her. She is doing the same now also. #Chinnamma," the party's official Twitter handle, @AIADMKOfficial said. 

The verdict came even as Panneerselvam won more support from party MPs and MLAs. 

The trial court had sentenced Sasikala and her two relatives to four years imprisonment with a fine of Rs 10 crore each. Jayalalithaa was sentenced to four years with a fine of Rs 100 crore. 

On June 7 last year, the apex court had reserved its verdict in the case after hearing detailed arguments from all the parties including the Karnataka government. 

On July 27, 2015, the apex court had issued notices on Karnataka government's appeal seeking stay of the high court judgement to Jayalalithaa, Sasikala and her relatives. 

The Karnataka HC had on May 11, 2015 ruled that Jayalalithaa's conviction by special court suffered from infirmity and was not sustainable in law, clearing decks for her return as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. 

The special court had in 2014 held Jayalalithaa guilty of corruption and sentenced her to four years imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 100 crore. 

Jayalalithaa and three others were accused of allegedly amassing disproportionate asserts to the tune of Rs 66.65 crore during her first term as Chief Minister from 1991 to 1996. 

(With PTI inputs)