NEW DELHI: Celebrations for former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa's acquittal in a disproportionate assets case last week were dampened after the prosecution pointed out accounting errors in the Karnataka High Court order. The nearly-1000 page judgement had calculated Ms Jayalalithaa's cumulative income to be about Rs 34 crore, which was later found to be only Rs 21 crore because of an exaggeration of loans advanced to her. This would suggest her unaccounted assets are 76 per cent more than her income, and not, as the court had found, only eight per cent.
But a closer scrutiny by NDTV of the judgement has revealed even further glaring inconsistencies in the court's assessment of the former chief minister's income and assets: gifts alleged to be tainted shown as legitimate; exaggerated earnings from one of her companies; and a lowered estimation of construction costs on her various properties.
Tainted Gifts as Income
In the sources of her income, the order lists 'gifts' to the tune of Rs 1.5 crore offered to Ms Jayalalithaa on her 44th birthday in 1992.
But as pointed out by the prosecution, these gifts are under CBI investigation for an alleged breach of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, which prevents a public servant from receiving gifts from those with whom he or she has official business.
Twenty-one of these were from AIADMK officials who were given plum appointments just before and after her birthday. The list of names in the CBI chargesheet include, for instance, AM Paramasivam the Minister of Labour appointed in 1993, who gifted Ms Jayalalithaa Rs 10 lakh; and DK Murthy, appointed Chairman of a milk producers union in 1994, who gave Rs 2.9 lakh.
The CBI probe is now being heard in the Supreme Court. Karnataka Special Prosecutor BV Acharya told NDTV this should have been brought to Judge Kumaraswamy's attention.
Exaggerated Income of Jayalalithaa's Company
The High Court order also lists Rs 4 crore as income that Jayalalithaa earned from the company Jaya Publications - of which she and Sasikala are directors - between 1991 and 1996.
But, according to her own submissions before the trial court, the company only earned a profit of Rs 1.15 crore in that period.
No explanation was given for this four-fold exaggeration by the high court.
The order goes into some detail on a newspaper subscription scheme cited by the defense as additional income.
But, the trial court verdict last year had found the subscription scheme to be fraudulent - retrospectively invented to justify the income that is unaccounted for. Judge Kumaraswamy, too, raises questions about the authenticity of the scheme, but doesn't explain how the company's earnings then quadrupled in his calculation.
'Mystery' Method to Lower Cost of Construction
Crucially, the high court verdict used a puzzling method to compute the cost of construction on Jayalalithaa's and her associates' properties.
According to the prosecution, these plots - adding up to about 1.6 lakh square feet - were developed at a cost of approximately Rs 27 crore, which makes up almost a third of Jayalalithaa's alleged unaccounted wealth of Rs 66 crore.
But the judgement found the cost of construction to be only about Rs 5 crore, slashing almost a third of her unaccounted assets.
The order does this by fixing a flat rate of Rs 280/sq ft as construction costs for all the properties, a highly unusual decision given that the properties range from farm houses in Tirunelveli to bungalows and offices in the heart of Chennai. No clear explanation is given for how it arrived at this uniform rate.
Mr Acharya said that these additional revelations will show that Jayalalithaa's unaccounted wealth is more than 200 per cent of her income, and that there is enough material to mount a strong appeal against the acquittal.
But an AIADMK spokersperson told NDTV that there will be no change in the plans for Jayalalithaa to return to high office.