Jayalalithaa bought properties through bank loans: HC
AIADMK members burst crackers to celebrate the legal war. Photo: M. Moorthy
The burden lies on prosecution to establish benami transaction: judge
The Karnataka High Court on Monday declared that the prosecution’s charges that AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa amassed wealth and acquired agricultural lands, sites, floated firms, etc “cannot be believed because the money that has been spent for acquiring the said properties can be inferred from the loans borrowed from nationalised banks.”
Also, the court said not only the source of incomes of V.K Sasikala, V.N. Sudhakaran and J. Ilavarasi was “lawful” but “object is also lawful.”
In his verdict, Justice C.R. Kumaraswamy held that the prosecution had not adduced any evidence to the effect that Ms. Jayalalithaa instigated or conspired with other accused to acquire lands and immovable properties in their names.
“The prosecution mainly relies on evidence of the sub-registrar and brokers and also sale deeds. Except marking the sale deeds, there is no other evidence. The burden lies on the prosecution to establish the benami transaction. The prosecution has not adduced any evidence with regard to allegation of benami transaction,” the court held.
‘Confiscation not sustainable’
“The immovable properties were acquired by borrowing huge loans from the nationalised banks. It is difficult to infer that the properties were acquired by means of ill-gotten money. Therefore, in my view, confiscation of the properties by the trial court is not sustainable in law,” said Justice Kumaraswamy.
In a major victory for AIADMK, a special bench of the Karnataka High Court on Monday set aside the trial court order convicting former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in the disproportionate assets case.
The clinching argument
The value of disproportionate assets was Rs. 2.82 crore and this value was not enough to convict them on charges of corruption, said Justice C.R. Kumaraswamy in his verdict while disagreeing with the verdict of the Special Court, which had computed the value of DA at Rs. 53.6 crore.
How DA account for less than 10% of total income?
Vigilance probe’s findings: Construction costs: Rs.27,79,88, 945 Marriage expenses: Rs.6,25,04,222
High Court’s findings: Construction costs: Rs.5,10,54,060 Marriage expenses: Rs.28,68,000
Exaggerated value: Construction costs: Rs.2,69,34,885 Marriage expenses: Rs.6,16,36,222
Total assets: Vigilance estimate - Exaggerated value Rs. 37,59,02,466
Disproportionate assets: Total assets - Total income
Rs.37,59,02,466-Rs.34,76,65,654 = Rs.2,82,36,812
Rs.2,82,36,812 x 100/Rs.34,76,65,654= 8.12%
HC says Jaya’s assets overshot income by only 8.12%, finds it marginal
Bangalore: The Karnataka High Court, which acquitted former chief minister of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalithaa in the 18-year-old disproportionate assets case on Monday, came to the conclusion that the percentage of assets amassed by her in relation to her known sources of income was merely 8.12 percent in excess and not as claimed by the prosecution. That was sufficient for the court to acquit Jayalalithaa and three others in a case which had almost ended her political career.
]Former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa. PTI
In his 919-page detailed judgment on Monday, Justice CR Kumaraswamy, heading a Special Bench of the High Court which heard Jayalalithaa's plea against the order of the Special Court, pointed out several 'loopholes' in the prosecution's case, and in particular, the procedure followed by the officials concerned in arriving at the figure Rs 66.65 crore (assets allegedly owned by Jayalalithaa in 1996), which was grossly against the former chief minister's known sources of income.
"In this case, the Trial Court (Special Court) has ignored the Income Tax proceedings as minimum evidentiary value. The Trial Court has not appreciated the evidence in a proper perspective," the high court noted.
The high court observed that most of the figures quoted by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) of Tamil Nadu Police were exaggerated or the assets she owned were not estimated accurately. Some of the major loans borrowed by Jayalalithaa or companies owned by her from public sector banks were not included under the income column. The agricultural, horticultural income and income from the tea estate were also not taken into consideration. The assessment of the value of the buildings she owned was not done properly too.
For instance, while the DVAC claimed that the cost of construction of buildings owned by Jayalalithaa or her firms was Rs 27.79 crore, as per records and findings of the high court, it was Rs 22.69 crore. The court also noted that there was no conclusive evidence to prove that Jayalalithaa splurged on the wedding of her foster son. While the DVAC pegged the wedding expenses at Rs 6.45 crore, the court found out that the actual expenses were Rs 28.68 lakh (paid by Jayalalithaa or her firms). The logistics, travel and accommodation of guests, and others were taken care of by her friends and party workers for which records are available.
Jayalalithaa has also shown Rs 18.17 crore loans as income, which has not been considered by the DVAC. The court also observed that witnesses altered their statements several times, leading to suspicion. The list containing such lapses is endless.
The high court came to the conclusion that Jayalalithaa's wealth (total assets) at the time the case was filed, was Rs 37,59,02,466 (Rs 37.59 crore). The income for the corresponding period was Rs 34,76,65,654 (Rs 34.76 crore). The surplus income after deducting the total income from the total assets stands at Rs 2,82,36,812 (Rs 2.82 crore). Therefore, the percentage of assets disproportionate to Jayalalithaa's known sources of income was 8.12 percent, which is within the permissible limit.
Referring to a Supreme Court case (Krishnanda Agnihotri v/s State of Madhya Pradesh), Justice Kumaraswamy pointed out that where there is disproportionate asset to the extent of 10 percent, the accused are entitled for acquittal. In addition, a circular has also been issued by the government of Andhra Pradesh that disproportionate asset to the extent of 20 percent can also be considered as a permissible limit.
"The margin of 10 per cent to 20 per cent of the disproportionate assets has been taken as a permissible limit, taking into consideration the inflation. The percentage of disproportionate assets is 8.12%. It is relatively small. In the instant case, the disproportionate asset is less than 10% and it is within permissible limit. Therefore, the accused are entitled for acquittal," the judge said in his order.
Why Jayalalithaa Acquitted? Here Are the Important Quotes From HC Verdict
BENGALURU: Giving a clean chit to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, the Karnataka High Court on Monday held that the judgement and finding recorded by the trial court convicting her and three others suffers from infirmity and it is not sustainable in law.
Acquitting Jayalalithaa and three others of "all the charges levelled against them", the single bench judge Justice C R Kumaraswamy set aside the trial court's conviction, allowing the criminal appeals filed by the four convicts.
In his 919-page judgement, Justice Kumaraswamy also quashed the order of the trial court relating to confiscation of the properties both movable and immovable.
Here are the major highlights in the verdict
Taking into consideration overall circumstances and material placed on record, in my view, the judgement and finding recorded by the trial court suffers from infirmity and it is not sustainable in law. the judge said in a verdict that has pave the way for Jayalalithaa to return to chief ministership.
It (disproportionate assets) is relatively small. In the instant case, the disproportionate asset is less than 10 per cent and it is within permissible limit." ... Therefore, the accused are entitled to acquittal. When the principal accused (Jayalalithaa) has been acquitted, the other accused, who have played a lesser role, are also entitled to acquittal.
It is a well-settled law that according to the Krishnanand Agnihotri case, when there is disproportionate asset to the extent of 10 per cent, the accused are entitled to acquittal.
A circular has been issued by Andhra Pradesh government that disproportionate assets to the extent of 20 per cent can also be considered as a permissible limit. The margin of 10 to 20 per cent of the disproportionate assets has been taken as a permissible limit, taking into consideration the inflationary measures.
Since the value of apparels and slippers and others (of Jayalalithaa) were of "insignificant value", I did not deduct this amount from the assets of DV & AC (Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption.
The prosecution has mixed up assets of accused, firms and companies and also added the cost of construction i.e., Rs.27,79,88,945/- and marriage expenses at Rs.6,45,04,222/- and valued the assets at Rs.66,44,73,573/-. The marriage expenses refer to Sudhakaran's (Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son) controversial extravagant wedding in 1995 when Jayalalithaa was Chief Minister.
If we remove the exaggerated value of cost of construction and marriage expenses, the assets will work out at Rs.37,59,02,466/-. The total income of the accused, firms and companies is Rs.34,76,65,654/-. Lack of proportion amount is Rs.2,82,36,812/-. The percentage of disproportionate assets is 8.12 per cent.
In an appeal from a conviction it is for the appellate court as for the first court to be satisfied affirmatively that the prosecution case is substantially true and that the guilt of the appellants has been established beyond all reasonable doubt.
It is not for the appellants to satisfy the appellate court that the first court had come to a wrong finding. In an appeal by some of the convicted persons, it is open to this court as an appellate court to examine the entire evidence. The powers of the appellate court under this section are the same as those of the trial court.
If after examining the evidence, this court is in aposition to say that the findings arrived at are erroneous or contrary to evidence then not only there is no legal prohibition to do so but in the interest of justice, that must be done.
In this case, the trial court has ignored the Income Tax proceedings as minimum evidentiary value. The trial court has not appreciated the evidence in a proper perspective.
Though the trial court in its judgement mentioned that the accused availed loan by the Indian Bank, it has not considered the same as income. Therefore, the trial court has erred in not considering the loans as income.
Even the valuation though disputed by the defence, the trial court has failed to examine the evidence relating to cost of construction at that relevant time and simply arrived at a conclusion that 20 per cent of the cost has to be reduced without appreciating the evidence placed on record.
This 20 per cent reduction is calculated on surmises and conjectures. The trial court has assessed the marriage expenses at Rs.3,00,00,000/-. There is no acceptable evidence to point-out that A-1 (Jayalalithaa) has spent about Rs.3,00,00,000/-. In spite of it, the trial court has arrived at a figure of Rs.3,00,00,000/- as modest and conservative estimation.
Arriving at Rs.3,00,00,000/- towards marriage expenses and fixing liability of Rs.3,00,00,000/- to A-1 alone is not proper. Most of the claims put forth by the accused have been rejected by the trial court.
The contention of the counsel for the appellants that without treating the witnesses as hostile, the witnesses were recalled and cross-examined.
The questions are put in such a manner that whether what they have stated before the examination-in chief is correct or in the cross-examination is correct by securing answer to this question and also by adopting this method, they cannot wipe out the answers elicited in the cross-examination. This is also one of the factors which weigh in favour of the accused.
If the witness gives different statements at different stages, it is unsafe to place reliance on them.
It is difficult to infer that the properties were acquired by means of "ill gotten money" and therefore, confiscation of the properties by the trial court was not sustainable in law.
The trial court has failed to appreciate the evidence in a proper perspective. The immovable properties were acquired by borrowing huge loan from nationalised banks.
The mere "Accused Nos 2 to 4 (Sasikala,Sudhakaran and Elavarasi) living with Accused No. 1 (Jayalalithaa) does not itself contemplate offence of conspiracy.
Conspiracy construes any combination or agreement between two or more persons to do an unlawful act. There must be reason to believe that there was conspiracy and accused persons were members of that conspiracy.
Section 10 would come into play only when the court was satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that two or more persons have conspired together i.e, to say there must be prima facie evidence. (Section 10 of Indian Evidence Act deals with "things said or done" by the conspirator in reference to the common desire.)
The aspects of criminal conspiracy were an agreement to believe in an illegal act, the judge observed. But, in the instant case, evidence on record discloses that the three other accused had borrowed huge amount and they had acquired the immovable properties like agricultural lands and legal entities.
The source of income is lawful. The object is also lawful. Just because Accused Nos 2 to 4 stay along with Accused No 1, that itself is not component (on the basis of) which the court can come to the conclusion that A Nos.1 to 4 abetted and conspired and acquired the property in an improper way.
The judgement came on appeals filed by Jayalalithaa and three others against the verdict of Special Court Judge John Michael D'Cunha who had on September 27 last held her and three others guilty of corruption. He had awarded four years jail term to them, besides slapping a fine of Rs 100 crore on Jayalalithaa and Rs 10 crore each on three others.