- If convicted by both judges, Sasikala will be disqualified from contesting elections, marking the end of her quest to succeed late party leader and chief minister, J Jayalalithaa.
- However, if either Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose or Justice Amitava Roy delivers a verdict acquitting her, the matter will then be referred to a third judge.
- Other possibilities are that instead of conviction or acquittal, the bench could send the case back to the High Court or take a fresh look, or even order a fresh trial. Any decision other than conviction would buy crucial time for Sasikala to seek an immediate vote of confidence in the State Assembly.
CHENNAI: The venue for the next big development in Tamil Nadu politics has moved to court number 6 at the Supreme Court, which is all set to deliver, this morning, the long-awaited verdict on the disproportionate assets case in which AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala, the unrelenting claimant for the chief minister’s post, is accused number two.
At 10.30 am, the bench comprising justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Amitava Roy will – separately – deliver the verdict; one which would decide Sasikala’s political future, the course of the ongoing rebellion by Chief Minister O Panneerselvam against her, and thus the State politics as such.
Meanwhile, Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi advised Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao to hold a composite floor test in the House within a week to decide who has the support of the MLAs – a final showdown between the Establishment and the rebels that the former has been seeking all along.
But it hinges on the outcome of the wealth case.
If convicted by both judges, Sasikala will be disqualified from contesting elections, marking the end of her quest to succeed late party leader and chief minister, J Jayalalithaa, the deceased first accused in the case whom she accompanied everywhere, including prisons, for over three decades.
However, if either Justice Ghosh or Justice Roy delivers a verdict acquitting her, the matter will then be referred to a third judge. While hearing the appeal against the Karnataka High Court’s decision to acquit Jaya, Sasikala and others, the bench had made it clear that it had other options as well other besides acquittal and conviction. It could send the case back to the High Court or take a fresh look, or even order a fresh trial.
Any decision other than conviction would buy crucial time for Sasikala to seek an immediate vote of confidence in the State Assembly.
That is where the A-G’s legal opinion about conducting the floor test becomes crucial. The advice to hold a floor test is not new – the Supreme Court has made it mandatory in the precedent-setting SR Bommai case, insisted on it during the Uttarakhand crisis, and it has been the demand by the Sasikala camp, which has been fuming over the delay.
The key is the ‘one week’ time frame that the top government lawyer suggested, which is in line with the opinion given by legal maven Soli Sorabjee. While holding that the governor was well within his right to refrain from inviting Sasikala to form the government till the Supreme Court pronounced its verdict, the veteran had opined that he cannot delay it indefinitely.
Another interesting point of contention – if the matters culminate in a floor test, that is – will be on who would get the first chance to stake the claim to the chief minister's chair.
Citing some cases, including the Bommai case and the tussle between Morarji Desai and Charan Singh, some argue that Panneerselvam should get the first chance as the incumbent chief minister. However, those opposing this argue that he gave up that right when he tendered his resignation, which the governor has formally accepted.