CHENNAI: Holding that former Chief Minister and AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa is not a convict in the disproportionate assets case following her death, a division bench of the Madras High Court has rejected a PIL petition opposing construction of her memorial on the Marina.
The bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and P Rajamanickam dismissed the petition from M L Ravi of Desiya Makkal Sakthi Katchi, on Wednesday.
The bench, however, suggested to the government that it may formulate a policy decision in future, to go for construction of hospitals, schools, colleges and provision of basic amenities and facilities to benefit the people in honour and memory of great leaders.
The PIL prayed for a directive to the authorities concerned not to spend 50.80 crore from public exchequer for construction of the memorial and to take steps to recover the money, if any, spent by the government, from her property or any other source. The petitioner contended that a memorial should not be constructed for a person, who had been convicted by the trial court in a disproportionate assets case, which was later confirmed by Supreme Court.
Accepting the arguments of Advocate-General Vijay Narayan, who pointed out various judgments of the Supreme Court and various High Courts, the bench said that the position of law in respect of an appeal against acquittal is that, on the demise of the accused in the said appeal, the appeal abates and there could be no decision on the merits of the appeal.
In the case on hand, Jayalalithaa was originally convicted by the trial court for the commission of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act and other related offences under the Indian Penal Code. On appeal filed by her and other accused before the High Court of Karnataka, the conviction and sentence passed against them were set aside and all of them were acquitted.
Challenging this, the Karnataka government and others preferred criminal appeals before the Supreme Court and before the orders could be pronounced, the main accused, i.e. Jayalalithaa breathed her last. Hence, the appeal against her acquittal came to be dismissed as abated. It is to be remembered at this juncture that the said person already had the benefit of acquittal operating in her favour and in the light of a similar judgment by the Supreme Court in 2001 in some other case, the stigma of conviction against her, has got erased or wiped out. This had not been set aside by the Supreme Court on merits for the reason that before the orders could be pronounced, she died. “Therefore, it cannot be said that Jayalalithaa is a convicted person and as such, there is stigma of conviction attached to her,” the bench said.
As regards the question as to whether a memorial can be erected in memory of Jayalalithaa by spending public money or at the cost of public exchequer, the judges pointed out the dismissal orders of the Supreme Court of the review and curative petitions of the Karnataka State and others to recover the fine amount of `100 crore from the accused while they were convicted.