After 18 years of legal battle, last September a trial court in Bengaluru had found Ms Jayalalithaa, who heads the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, guilty of accumulating assets worth Rs 54 crores disproportionate to her income during her tenure as chief minister between 1991 and 1996 when she had drawn a token salary of Rs 1.
The trial court had also sentenced the AIADMK chief to four years in jail and had slapped a fine of Rs 100 crore.
The verdict ended her third term as the head of the Tamil Nadu government. She was disqualified as a lawmaker and picked loyalist O Panneerselvam as her replacement.
If Ms Jayalalithaa is acquitted today, she could return to become chief minister again. If the conviction is upheld, she would have to go to jail at least till she gets any relief from the Supreme Court, which would continue to disqualify her from contesting elections. Ms Jayalalithaa has been out on bail for eight months.
The prosecution claimed the other three convicted, who lived in Ms Jayalalithaa's house, had floated 32 firms which had no businesses but acquired huge properties using the ill-gotten money which include a 1000-acre estate at Kodanadu in the Nilgiris, another 1000 acres in Tirunelvelli, 30 kilograms of gold, 12,000 sarees besides a lavish Rs 5 crore wedding for Ms Jayalalithaa's foster son, who has since been disowned.
In her appeal before the Karnataka High Court, Ms Jayalalithaa argued that the prosecution's estimate that she spent Rs 28 crore on construction was inflated. Her lawyers say the bride's family spent for her foster son's wedding. The AIADMK chief also claimed that her Rs 50 lakh income from farming was ignored and that she can't be held accountable for assets acquired by companies she was not a part of.
Her case was transferred from Tamil Nadu to adjacent Karnataka in 2001 to ensure her political clout would not influence her trial.
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