Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's political rivals are sharply divided over appealing against her acquittal in a disproportionate assets case that saw her return to power for a fifth time two days ago.
Long-standing rival and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief M Karunanidhi said his party was "firm" on appealing against the judgement, while in neighbouring Karnataka, where the trial was conducted and Jayalalithaa's appeal against conviction allowed by the high court, the ruling Congress does not seem intent on challenging the judgement.
"With Supreme Court having said twice that DMK has the right to participate in this case, I firmly say that the party also will file an appeal in the disproportionate assets case against Jayalalithaa in the Supreme Court," 90-year-old Karunanidhi said in a statement in Chennai. DMK has been pressing the Congress government in Karnataka to file an appeal against the May 11 verdict of the high court acquitting Jayalalithaa and three others in the DA case that paved the way for her return as chief minister.
Karunanidhi's statement came after he chaired a meeting of DMK's district secretaries, who play a significant role in the party organisation, where the matter was discussed. Karunanidhi said the Special Public Prosecutor in the case, B V Acharya, and Karnataka Advocate General Ravi Varma Kumar had recommended the Siddaramaiah government to file an appeal against her acquittal.
"We firmly believe that Karnataka government will accept their recommendations and file the appeal," he said. However, the ruling Congress in Karnataka, at least a section of it, is not keen on further pursuing the case against the AIADMK supremo. Noting that Karnataka's role in the case was "administrative and not judicial", the legal cell of Congress has advised the state government against moving in appeal against the verdict.
The state was not an aggrieved party in respect of the high court judgement, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee Legal and Human Rights Department said. After meeting Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, department Chairman C M Dhananjaya said Karnataka had filed an affidavit in the transfer petition case (regarding shifting of trial to Bengaluru) in the Supreme Court stating that it "has no interest in the outcome of the trial".
"Therefore, filing of appeal by the state of Karnataka amounts to showing interest on the outcome of the case," he said, adding that this amounts to going back on the undertaking and also to contempt of the court. "I am of the opinion that it is not proper for the state government to file the appeal," he told PTI in Bengaluru.
Dhananjaya said the chief minister told him that the government would take an "appropriate decision". Senior Congress leader and former Union minister P Chidambaram said in Delhi the Karnataka Cabinet would meet by Tuesday to take a decision on filing an appeal.
"The issue is in the domain of the Karnataka government. The Karnataka Cabinet is meeting today or tomorrow to take a decision," Chidambaram, who hails from Tamil Nadu, told reporters, but refused to comment further on the matter. Karunanidhi said the original complainant in the case, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, had also said he would move the apex court against Jayalalithaa's acquittal. DMK's decision to take forward the legal fight with its arch-rival came two days after Jayalalithaa was sworn-in as chief minister for a fifth time, following her acquittal in the Rs 66.66 crore DA case by the high court.
The court had allowed her appeal challenging the September 27, 2014, order of the trial court in Bengaluru convicting and sentencing her to four years imprisonment, and imposing a fine of Rs 100 crore. It was on DMK's prayer in the Supreme Court that the case was transferred to Bengaluru in 2003. Since then, DMK General Secretary K Anbazhagan had impleaded himself in the case. In the latest instance, Anbazhagan had successfully challenged before the apex court the appointment of G Bhavani Singh as Special Public Prosecutor in the case by the Tamil Nadu government.
The Supreme Court had on April 27 held as bad in law the appointment of Singh as SPP, following which Karnataka government appointed Acharya in his place.