Truth vs Hype Exclusive: How the Cost of Sentry Shed Helped Acquit Jayalalithaa

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File photo of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa


Chennai/Bengaluru:  As J Jayalalithaa took over as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for the fifth time today, questions continue to mount over lapses in the Karnataka High Court order acquitting her.

While reporting on some of those lapses earlier in week we had pointed out how the judgement brought down Ms Jayalalithaa's unaccounted assets by almost a third, by fixing a uniform rate of construction for a host of different properties.

The judgement had fixed Rs 250 per square foot as the flat rate. Using this figure, the cost of properties drops from Rs 27 crores alleged by prosecution, to only Rs 5 crores.

This one calculation alone helped bring down her unaccounted wealth (referred to as disproportionate assets) from Rs 66 crores, to Rs 37 crores.

But how did the judgement arrive at this rate of Rs 250?

The answer is buried in page 786 of the 1000-page judgement: the figure is derived from a quote given by the Public Works Department (PWD) for the average cost of construction for a sentry shed in Chennai!

The PWD submitted a cost of Rs 310 per square foot, which the judgement further reduces to Rs 250 per square foot, applying that rate uniformly to Ms Jayalalithaa's and Ms Sasikala's properties.

These range from farmhouses, bungalows, apartments and factories scattered across Chennai, Tamil Nadu, and even one in Hyderabad.

We personally visited two such properties, to establish how strikingly different they were: one, a printing unit in an industrial area in south Chennai (now being converted into the new offices of Jaya TV), and the second a commercial complex in upmarket central Chennai.

BV Acharya, Special Public Prosecutor in the case, says this calculation has no basis. "How can rate of sentry shed be applied to all these properties," he told NDTV. He says the calculations for the rate of construction by the investigative agency were done building to building, arriving at the figure of Rs 27 crores.

According to newspaper reports, Karnataka's Advocate General has strongly recommended the state should appeal against Ms Jayalalithaa's acquittal, citing a number of errors in the court's order.  

For the moment, Ms Jayalalithaa is back in office, thanks in part to the cost of a sentry shed.


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