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Karnataka Court Acquits Jayalalithaa In Corruption Case
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The Karnataka High Court on Monday acquitted Jayalalithaa in a corruption case, clearing the decks for the AIADMK chief to again become Tamil Nadu's chief minister.
Pronouncing the verdict in a jam-packed court, Justice C.R. Kumaraswamy also acquitted AIADMK chief's close aide Sasikala Natarajan and her relatives J. Elavarasi and V.N. Sudhakaran, disowned foster son of Jayalalithaa.
Jayalalithaa supporters, including AIADMK ministers, had been hopping from temples to churches to mosques, praying for the release of their 67-year-old "Puratchi Thalaivi Amma" (Revolutionary Leader-Mother).
They have been holding prayers for the last few months, including carrying milk pots and performing havans.
As the court proceedings got underway at 11 am, the judge straightway read out the operative part of the verdict on the appeals filed by Jayalalithaa and the three others challenging their conviction by the trial court.
Victory celebrations broke out immediately outside her Poes Garden residence in Chennai where party workers celebrated with bursting of crackers and dancing.
Celebrations also broke out across Tamil Nadu, with people bursting fire crackers and breaking coconuts.
The Karnataka High Court judgement came on an appeal against the judgement of the special court Judge John Michael D'Cunha who had on September 27 last year held the AIADMK supremo and three others guilty of corruption and awarded four years jail term.
The judge had also slapped a fine of Rs 100 crore on her and Rs 10 crore each on the three other convicts.
The lower court judgement automatically disqualified Jayalalithaa as an MLA and unseated her from the chief minister's post. Now with the High Court's clean chit, she is expected to assume reins of office in Fort St George in Chennai.
The judgement comes as a major boost to Jayalalithaa and the AIADMK exactly one year ahead of Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.
The "Comeback Queen", known for her resilience and determination to fight adverse situations, might have been on tenterhooks over the future of her political career, but has managed to stage an impressive comeback.
She has faced adverse situations in her political career before.
The TANSI case in 2001 had derailed her for a brief period after the Supreme Court struck down her appointment.
Monday's verdict allows the "politician by accident" to plan not only a new course of action but also prepare herself and her party for the assembly elections scheduled next year.
From a hesitant teen starlet who made her cinema debut in CV Sridhar-directed "Vennira Aadai," in 1956, Jayalalithaa rose in ranks as a popular heroine, pairing opposite among others, then matinee idol MG Ramachandran (MGR).
Having done nearly 30 films together, their on screen bonding stretched to politics also, with Jayalalithaa becoming the former chief minister's protege after he founded AIADMK.
Having started off as the party's propaganda secretary, she impressed Ramachandran, especially with her English language skills, and soon earned a ticket to Rajya Sabha, and with that, a stronger foothold in politics.
Jayalalithaa had split the party after being humiliated during Ramachandran's funeral procession.
But she later united the different factions following an ugly incident involving her party's arch rival DMK in the state Assembly, when she was allegedly insulted on the floor of the House. She was opposition leader then.
In 1991, she stitched up an alliance with the Congress and a sympathy wave spurred by the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi landed her party a landslide victory, with Jayalalithaa making her debut as chief minister.
However, the same period turned out to be her undoing with her aide Sasikala's family allegedly calling the shots in all aspects of government.
The extravaganza publicly displayed during the marriage of her foster son Sudhakaran (now disowned) attracted strong criticism.
AIADMK lost power in 1996 when the then DMK-TMC combine, backed by the support of Tamil superstar Rajinikanth, in the face of corruption charges against the Jayalalithaa-led party, swept the elections.
She was subsequently arrested and a number of cases, including the disproportionate assets case were registered against her.
Unperturbed by the electoral loss, she later allied with Atal Bihari Vajpayee but later brought down his party-led government in 1999, taking her political profile to the national spectrum.
Jayalalithaa steered her party to power once again in 2001, and did not allow the brief derailment due to conviction in TANSI case affect the party's fortunes, as she installed O. Panneerselvam in her place.
After securing an acquittal later, she took over the reins from him.
Once again in 2011, defying all speculation of a DMK win, Jayalalithaa trounced her arch rival, as the former could not even become the main opposition party in the Assembly.