Sasikala Natarajan, also known as Chinnamma  took her time to become AIADMK General Secretary, now she is just waiting to handed over the Chief Ministership of Tamil Nadu with her being elected as Legislative Party Chief and O Panneerselvam resigning from the post of CM.

 

However, before Sasikala can think of a long and fruitful stint on the Chief Minister's chair, her previous legal records may just prove to be problematic. Once they are out of the way she can rest easy. 

 

The Disproportionate Assets case

 

One of the most important threats to Sasikala continuing as CM is the impending Supreme Court judgement in the disproportionate assets case against Jayalalithaa. Sasikala was also named as a co-accused.

 

The Disproportionate Assets case, commonly known as the DA case, is 19 years old. In 1996, the then Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam  government slapped cases on Jayalalithaa and four others, accusing them of holding disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs 66 crores. In 2014, a special court trying the case in Bengaluru convicted all four of possessing unexplained wealth and sentenced them to four years of jail time each, along with a Rs 100 crore fine. Jayalalithaa, Sasikala and the other two accused spent 21 days in jail, subsequently coming out on bail.

 

However, according to legal experts, there may be chances of Sasikala going free in this case, as the prime accused, a public servant (Jayalalithaa) is dead and no tussle for property also involved. A host of legal experts have also highlighted that Sasikala could escape since the case had been under the Prevention of Corruption Act and it cannot apply to a private individual.

 

FERA case (Foreign Exchange Regulation Act)

 

In the first week of February, 2017  the Madras High Court  has brought up the  case against AIADMK general secretary Sasikala and her nephew and former MP T T V Dinakaran, filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) two decades ago. The Madras HC judge passed orders setting aside the orders of the economic offences court discharging Sasikala and Dinakaran from the cases and upholding the orders refusing to discharge her from the other three cases. The cases go back to the 1990s and involve violation of foreign exchange regulations. In 1996, JJ TV, where Sasikala was director and chairperson was under the scanner.  The case pertains to Bharani Beach Resorts, where Sasikala had been charged with transferring Rs 3 crore (or USD 19 lakh) to the non-resident non-repatriable account of her friend, Susheela. The amount was allegedly re-routed to Sasikala. If the judgement in this case goes against Sasikala, which no doubt will be on fast-track thanks to the recent turn of events, then Sasikala could find the CM’s throne slipping away from her.

 

The Supreme Court in 2014 had laid out its opinion on persons with criminal antecedents occupying positions of power, in the state and central houses of legislature and said that while it could not dismiss ministers with criminal cases against them, it would have to leave the decision on the "Prime Minister's wisdom" and it was the prerogative of the prime minister and chief ministers to do so, banking on constitutional morality.

 

Sasikala will also have friend Jayalalithaa’s example to go by in this case. In 2014, Amma was asked to step down from her role as Tamil Nadu’s CM after she was charged under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 in the disproportionate assets case along with three others. Prior to that, in September 2001 during her second term in power Jayalalithaa had been forced to step down as Chief Minister after she was convicted to five years of imprisonment in the Tansi land scam case. The Supreme Court had ruled that she cannot be Chief Minister when convicted in a criminal case. Will it be the same for Sasikala once she becomes Chief Minister?