AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala, who was convicted by Supreme Court in a DA case on Tuesday, removed caretaker Chief Minister O Panneerselvam from primary membership of the party.
Sasikala appointed Edapadi K Palanisamy as the legislature leader and he is likely to meet Tamil Nadu Governor Vidyasagar Rao to stake claim to form government in Tamil Nadu.
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The political equations are changing fast in the state as Panneerselvam, chosen by Jayalalithaa as her proxy to take over as chief minister twice in the past, will have to fight another political battle against Palanisamy who has been elected as Sasikala's 'proxy' to become the legislature party leader.
Panneerselvam had earlier been appointed the chief minister of Tamil Nadu when Jayalalithaa was convicted in the same disproportionate assets corruption case by a Bangalore Special Court.
That was the second time Panneerselvam stepped into the shoes of Jayalalithaa since 2001, the year he made his debut in the Assembly.
He was chosen by 'Amma' in 2001 as her replacement for the CM’s chair when she had to step down because of the TANSI land scam conviction.
Panneerselvam had to make way for his mentor Jayalalithaa a second time in May 2015, when she was acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in the disproportionate assets case.
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SC verdict will keep Sasikala away from active politics for 10 years
AIADMK chief VK Sasikala's hope of becoming chief minister of Tamil Nadu was on Tuesday dealt a body blow with the Supreme Court upholding her conviction in a corruption case, a verdict that bars her from contesting polls for nearly 10 years.
A close aide of late chief minister J Jayalalithaa, 60-year-old Sasikala, who is locked in a bitter struggle for power in the ruling AIADMK with acting Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, was ordered to surrender forthwith and serve the remaining part of her four-year jail term. The AIADMK general secretary has already served almost six months in jail.
In a keenly awaited verdict in the 19-year-old disproportionate assets case that also involved Jayalalithaa which will have a direct bearing on the political uncertainty that has gripped the state for the last 10 days, the court restored in toto the judgement and the findings of the trial court in Bengaluru which held all the accused including Sasikala's two relatives, VN Sudhakaran and Elavarasi guilty.
The two-judge bench comprising Justices PC Ghose and Amitava Roy directed Sasikala and the two relatives to surrender forthwith to the trial court in Bengaluru and serve the remaining part of four-year jail term.
The verdict disqualifies Sasikala from becoming a legislator and consequentially she can't be chief minister either for six years from the date of release of prison under the Representation of the People Act.
Verdict delivered in 8 minutes
The pronouncement of the much-awaited verdict in the apex court was completed in about just eight minutes.
The two judges, Justices PC Ghose and Amitava Roy, reached the dias at 10.32am in Court Number 6, which was jam-packed with a large number of advocates and mediapersons.
After the seal of the voluminous judgement was opened by the court staff, the two judges held discussion for a few moments.
Amid pin-drop silence, Justice Ghose, before pronouncing the judgement, said "You can understand (that it is) too much of a fatty judgement. We have taken the burden on us."
The bench read the operative portion of the voluminous judgement saying that "according to the materials and evidence place on record, we set aside the judgement and the order of the high court and affirm in toto the judgement and order the trial court convicting the accused persons."
The bench said since Jayalalithaa has expired, the proceeding against her is abated. She died on December 5.
"Nevertheless, we reiterate that having regard to the facts, the charge framed against them by the trial court is restored," the bench said.
"Since the charges framed by the trial court have been restored against all of them they will surrender forthwith before the trial court and serve the remaining part of the sentence," it said.
Immediately thereafter, Justice Ghose began reading the operative part of the judgement. It was over by 10.40am.
No sooner had Justice Ghose finished with reading the judgement, the silence of the courtroom turned into hustle and bustle with scribes and some advocates rushing out to give out the deliberation of the courtroom drama.
Amidst this scenario, Justice Roy said he was making a supplementary judgement in concurrence with Justice Ghose. "We have expressed deep concern about escalating menace of corruption in the society," Justice Roy said.
The trial court had sentenced Sasikala and her two relatives to four years imprisonment with a fine of Rs 10 crore each. Jayalalithaa was sentenced to four years with a fine of Rs 100 crore.
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AIADMK defends Sasikala
Minutes after the Supreme Court verdict, the AIADMK appeared to defend her, saying she had always carried the burden of the late Jayalalithaa.
"Whenever there had been burden for Amma (Jayalalithaa) she (Sasikala) had taken it on her. She is doing the same now also.
#Chinnamma," the party's official Twitter handle, @AIADMKOfficial said.
The verdict came even as Panneerselvam won more support from party MPs and MLAs.
Full Coverage: AIADMK crisis in Tamil Nadu
What is the case
On June 7 2015, the apex court had reserved its verdict in the case after hearing detailed arguments from all the parties including the Karnataka government.
On July 27, 2015, the apex court had issued notices on Karnataka government's appeal seeking stay of the high court judgement to Jayalalithaa, Sasikala and her relatives.
The Karnataka HC had on May 11, 2015 ruled that Jayalalithaa's conviction by special court suffered from infirmity and was not sustainable in law, clearing decks for her return as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister.
The special court had in 2014 held Jayalalithaa guilty of corruption and sentenced her to four years imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 100 crore.
Jayalalithaa and three others were accused of allegedly amassing disproportionate asserts to the tune of Rs 66.65 crore during her first term as Chief Minister from 1991 to 1996.
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(With inputs from PTI)