Three months to go before VK Sasikala -- the aide of the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa -- walks free, her assets to the tune of Rs 1500 crore have been attached by the Income Tax department. The 69-year-old -- who was jailed in 2017 in a disproportionate assets case in which the late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was the prime accused -- is scheduled to be released from Bengaluru's Parappana Agrahara jail by the end of January, months before the Tamil Nadu state elections, due in May 2021.
Sources in the Income Tax Department said the action was in accordance with the Supreme Court order of 2017. It is not, however, known why the action was initiated so late. The assets seized include the sprawling Kodanaand Siruthavur areas of Tamil Nadu, the Income Tax department has said.
The IT department's action also comes on a day Deputy Chief Minister O Pannerselvam announced Chief Minister E Palaniswami as the Chief Ministerial candidate of the state's ruling AIADMK, after weeks of shadow boxing and political muscle flexing between both who aspire to become the next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
VK Sasikala cannot contest election for two more years and in the days since she went to jail, the politics in her party and the state has vastly changed.
In the months after the death of Jayalalithaa in office, Sasikala took charge of the ruling AIADMK and even made attempts to take over as Chief Minister until she was sentenced to jail. She unseated Mr Paneerselvam and installed Mr Palaniswami as the Chief Minister.
Later Mr Panneerselvam and Mr Palaiswami patched up and ousted her and her nephew Dhinakaran who she made No. 2 in the party. They are jointly controlling the party and the government.
Last month, in reply to a query under the Right to Information Act, the Central prison authorities have reportedly said Sasikala would be released on January 27 if she pays the fine of 10 crore and 10 lakh rupees.
Her lawyer Rajasenthur Pandian, though, hopes she would be out as early as October 27.
"Every prisoner is eligible 3 days of remission for every month for good behavior and this way, for the 43 months she has served so far, her term would be reduced by 129 days. There is no reason to deny her," Mr Pandian told reporters.
Besides this, the Superintendent of Police or the Inspector General can remit 30 or 60 days respectively based on track record after two-thirds of the term is completed, he added.