Karnataka court orders transfer of Jayalalithaa’s gold, diamond jewellery to Tamil Nadu government

The court asked the TN government to take necessary action on the disposal of the jewellery which was part of the evidence in a DA case.

BySouth First Desk

Published Jan 23, 2024 | 12:51 PMUpdatedJan 23, 2024 | 1:33 PM

Jayalalithaa assets

A special court in Bengaluru directed the transfer of valuables seized from former Tamil Nadu chief minister, the late J Jayalalithaa, to the government of the neighbouring state.

The Tamil Nadu government will then take necessary action on the disposal of the gold and diamond jewellery, which were part of the material evidence in the disproportionate assets case against Jayalalithaa and others.

The trial was held in Karnataka on the direction of the Supreme Court and, therefore, all material evidence is in the Karnataka treasury now under the custody of the court.

Judge HA Mohan presiding over the XXXII Additional City Civil & Sessions court passed the order on Monday, 22 January.

Also Read: Karnataka appoints SPP to dispose of movable assets of Jayalalithaa

The court order

The court had earlier held that the kin of Jayalalithaa were not entitled to the properties which are confiscated by the state. The Special CBI Court had thus rejected the petition filed by J Deepa and J Deepak, niece and nephew of Jayalalithaa, respectively.

Ordering the transfer of the jewels to the Tamil Nadu government, the Special Court judge said, “Instead of auctioning the jewels, it is better to transfer the same to Tamil Nadu by handing over the same through the Department of Home, State of Tamil Nadu.”

The court then issued the direction that the Tamil Nadu Home Department authorise “competent persons preferably in the rank of Secretary along with police to come and collect the jewels.”

In the same order, the Special Court ordered the payment of ₹5 crore to Karnataka for the expenses of the trial conducted in the state. The payment will be made from a fixed deposit in an account related to Jayalalithaa in the State Bank of India branch in Chennai.

The disproportionate assets trial against Jayalalithaa, her former close aide V Sasikala, VN Sudhakaran, who is the disowned foster son of Jayalalithaa, and Sasikala’s sister-in-law J Ilavarasi was conducted by the Special Court in Bengaluru.

The Karnataka government’s Law Department had appointed advocate Kiran S Javali as the Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) to dispose of the movable properties of former Jayalalithaa.

The notification for the appointment was issued on 27 March last year.

The 1996 disproportionate assets case was transferred to Karnataka from Tamil Nadu by the Supreme Court in 2003 which led to her conviction by a special court for CBI cases in 2014.

The assets were seized from Jayalalithaa’s residence on 11 December 1996.

Also Read: Stop with the conspiracy theories! Let J Jayalalithaa rest in peace

CBI wrote to Registrar General

The CBI had written to the Registrar General of the Karnataka High Court in October 2022 about the need for a Special Public Prosecutor to dispose of movable assets.

RTI activist T Narasimhamurthy had approached the special court seeking details of disposing of the assets seized in the case. He had also sought information from the public information office which was directed by the court to provide him the details.

The material evidence seized from Jayalalithaa’s residence in Chennai is currently in the custody of the Karnataka government.

These include 7 kg of gold and diamond ornaments, 600 kg of silver ornaments, over 11,000 sarees, 750 footwear, 91 watches, 131 suitcases, 1,040 video cassettes, electrical goods including air-conditioners and refrigerators and other pieces of clothing.

They are part of a huge cache of clothes, furniture, jewellery, home appliances, and other paraphernalia locked up in the Karnataka treasury — situated on the ground floor of Vidhana Soudha — for more than a quarter of a century now.

The total value of these assets? Around ₹66 crore. And that was the assessment 26 years ago!

The list itself enumerates the items confiscated by authorities during the high-profile Disproportionate Assets (DA) case from 1996 involving the late former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, Sasikala, Ilavarsi, and VN Sudhakaran.

All four were convicted in the case by the Supreme Court in 2014, and even served their sentence of four years of simple imprisonment.

Also Read: What will happen to assets seized from Jayalalithaa?

What will happen to the assets?

Narasimhamurthy has filed several petitions and RTI applications to that end.

“Since these seizures were made in a DA case, the convicts will not be able to reclaim the seized property,” he explained to South First earlier.

“Moreover, as one of the claimants and the prime accused — Jayalalithaa — is no more, the seized properties now belong to the government.”

He added, “The seized properties have been left unattended — left to perish — for more than 26 years at the treasury. If they are not disposed of wisely, it would be a national waste.”

Quoting silk experts, the RTI activist said, “Expensive silk sarees that weigh more than regular sarees have to be taken out of their shelves or cupboards and folded back inside-out or in the opposite way. That is also the case with designer shawls.”

He added, “The decorated leather sandals should be taken out and dusted regularly. The moisture content of the treasury room needs to be checked. It should also be ensured that the treasury is free of rats, roaches, and other pests.”

If these items had been stored without care over the past 26 years, the colours would fade, and the quality of the fabric would deteriorate over time, explained Nrasimhamurthy.

On 17 January last year, the Principal City Civil and Sessions Judge and the First Appellate Authority in Bengaluru — Ramachandra D Huddar — heard the RTI appeal filed by Narasimhamurthy and allowed it.

He also directed the Public Information Official (city civil court) to furnish the information along with the final order portion in the judgement Spl CC No 208/2004 and also copies of the correspondence by the court in seeking the appointment of a Special Public Prosecutor for considering the aspect of the disposal of the properties by it.

(With PTI inputs)