India: Supreme Court finds Sasikala guilty, she will not be chief minister

It is thought Sasikala will try to rule by proxy. Which is why at the same meeting that expelled Panneerselvam, Sasikala loyalist Edapadi K Palanisamy was elected leader of the AIADMK legislature party. Photograph:( AFP )

ANI New Delhi, Delhi, India Feb 14, 2017, 05.53 AM (IST)

A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court has found AIADMK general secretary Sasikala guilty of having assets disproportionate to her income.

Sasikala was ordered to surrender immediately to the authorities but before she did, Sasikala expelled her former rival for the chief minister's chair O Panneerselvam from the party.

The expulsion took place at a party meeting at the Golden Bay resort in Chennai where Sasikala had been holed up with party MLAs.  

At the same meeting, Sasikala loyalist Edapadi K Palanisamy was elected leader of the AIADMK legislature party.

Panneerselvam meanwhile thanked his supporters, saying: "I thank lakhs and lakhs of people for continuing to support us. Good governance of Amma will continue."

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With events still unfolding in Chennai, it is unclear what exactly will happen next. Or for that matter, who will become chief minister. 

Panneerselvam, who had taken over as chief minister after J Jayalalithaa's death, resigned recently to make way for Sasikala to take over. But after doing so, he suddenly "rebelled", saying he had been "forced" to resign.  

What is certain is that Sasikala will not become chief minister. The verdict -- under the Representation of the People Act -- prohibits her from holding public office for six years. 

But it is thought that she will try and rule by proxy, which is why the expulsion of Panneerselvam and the election of Sasikala loyalist Palaisamy. 

The case against Sasikala -- it was also filed against two of her relatives, and former chief minister J Jayalalithaa -- was filed in 1996. The original charge was brought against them by Subramaniam Swamy. 

All four of them were found guilty by a special court, but then later acquitted by the Karnataka high court. 

That judgement was overruled by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, which found them guilty of owning assets in excess of their known sources of income. 

Sasikala was ordered to surrender immediately to the authorities, and serve out the remainder of her four-year jail term. She has already served six months in jail, which leaves her to serve three years and six months in prison.

She was also ordered to pay a Rs 10 crore fine.   

(WION)