The Madras High Court today said former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa cannot be termed a convict in a disproportionate assets case and dismissed a petition challenging the construction of a memorial of her.
A division bench of justices M Sathyanarayanan and P Rajamanickam dismissed the petition by ML Ravi, president of Desiya Makkal Sakthi Katchi, seeking a direction to restrain the Tamil Nadu government from spending money from the public exchequer for construction of the memorial.
The petitioner said steps should be taken to recover money if it is spent by the government citing that she was convicted in the disproportionate wealth case.
The bench observed that before the orders could be passed by the Supreme Court on the appeals filed against the Karnataka High Court order, Jayalalithaa died and therefore, the appeal against her acquittal came to be dismissed as abated.
"It is to be remembered at this juncture that the said person had already had the benefit of acquittal operating in her favour and in the light of the judgement of HC the stigma of conviction against her got erased, which has not been set aside by the apex court on merits for the reason that before the orders could be pronounced, she died," the court said.
"Therefore, it cannot be said that Jayalalithaa was a convicted person and as such, there is stigma of conviction attached to her," the bench added.
It declined to accept the main contention of the petitioner that the order of acquittal passed by the Karnataka High Court had been reversed by the Supreme Court in criminal appeals, and Jayalalithaa who was the first respondent in the said appeals became a convict and as such, a memorial in honour of a convicted person cannot be built.
Referring to the money spent from public exchequer for construction of the memorial, the bench said: "The petitioner did not make a challenge to the sanction of funds and the clearances accorded for construction of the said memorial and even otherwise; this Court is of the considered view that the grounds urged by the petitioner lack merit for the above cited reasons."
The top court in 2017 abated the charges against Jayalalithaa in the disproportionate wealth case while sentencing her close aide V K Sasikala and two others to imprisonment.