It was a week of mixed legal fortunes for three leading
politicians of two neighbouring southern states, Tamil Nadu and
Karnataka, with all the courtroom drama centred in Bangalore.
It also demonstrated the supremacy of the rule of law in the
country and the pre-eminence of the judiciary that sought
accountability from three high-profile politicians for their
omissions and commissions while they were in power.
In fact, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who faced
grilling in a Bangalore court for around ten hours in two days Oct
20 and 21 in a 15-year-old corruption case, is back in power and
was, in effect, Friday celebrating the victory of her party, the
AIADMK, in local polls.
She has answered around 600 questions on how she acquired assets
of over Rs.66 crore between 1991-96, when also she was chief
minister, while taking only one Re.1 as salary. She has been asked
to return Nov 8 to respond to another 600 questions on the issue.
For two former Karnataka chief ministers, too, it was a mixed day.
B.S. Yeddyurappa, the most powerful man in the state till some
months ago, went back to jail in two corruption cases and waits
for bail from the high court.
His predecessor, H.D. Kumaraswamy, was luckier, however, as the
high court threw out two corruption cases against him. In one of
the cases, his legislator-wife Anita was also an accused.
The week ending Oct 22 was perhaps the busiest for Karnataka
judiciary in terms of the corruption cases it handled and the
number of political leaders involved.
The special Lokayukta (ombudsman) court judge N.K. Sudhindra Rao,
who sent Yeddyurappa to judicial custody Oct 15, ordered police
attached to the anti-corruption body to probe land grab charges
against Karnataka home minister R. Ashoka.
Rao is to decide Monday whether to order a probe into land grab
charges against another Karnataka minister, Murugesh Nirani, who
handles the industries portfolio.
It was Rao who had ordered probe against Kumaraswamy and his wife
on a complaint by a Bangalore advocate.
Rao is additional sessions judge and functions as Lokayukta
special court for speedy disposal of corruption cases.
Reaction of the Bangalorean to so many court cases involving
political leaders in one week was one of disbelief and welcome.
"Political corruption has become alarming and, hence, it is no
surprise that judiciary is hauling up leaders accused of illegal
dealings," said M. Narasimhaiah, retired political science
professor in Bangalore.
"Found it difficult to believe that Jayalalithaa has to answer
over a thousand questions on her assets," said K. Shubhada, an
opthalmologist in Bangalore.
"I am happy that politicians are facing the heat these days as
getting a bail is also not that easy any more," said S.K. Shankar,
an electrical goods shop owner in Jayanagar, a major shopping area
in south Bangalore.
While Kumaraswamy, now Janata Dal-Secular Lok Sabha member from
Karnataka, has got relief, Jayalalaithaa's lawyers say she may
move the Supreme Court to seek exemption from personal appearance
in the Bangalore court again.
The case was registered in Chennai court in 1996 soon after she
lost power but was transferred to Bangalore by the Supreme Court
in 2003 to ensure free and fair trial. This is Jayalalithaa's
first appearance in the Bangalore court.
For Yeddyurappa, Ashoka and Nirani, all from Bharatiya Janata
Party, agonizing waiting for relief has just begun.