Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was on Saturday sentenced to four years in jail in an 18-year-old corruption case and fined a staggering Rs 100 crore by a special court whose verdict unseats her from the post and could send her to political exile for 10 years.
The first conviction of a sitting Chief Minister in a corruption case, which has triggered speculation as to whom she chooses to succeed her, comes as a massive blow to Jayalalithaa who had won nearly two-thirds majority in the assembly elections in 2011 and which are due in 18 months.
The names of senior minister O Panneerselvam, who had taken over as Chief Minister in 2001 after she was unseated and till her return, Transport Minister V Senthil Balaji and Electricity Minister R Viswanathan and even former Chief Secretary Sheela Balakrishna are doing the rounds as the possible successors.
Along with the 66-year-old AIADMK supremo, three others-Jayalalithaa's close friend Sasikala, Sasikala's niece Ilavarasi and her nephew and Chief Minister's disowned foster son Sudhakaran-were convicted and sentenced to four years of jail term and fined Rs 10 crore by special judge John Michael D'Cunha.
They have been convicted on the charges of amassing properties disproportionate to their known sources of income under the Prevention of Corruption Act and criminal conspiracy in the Indian Penal Code.
Since they have been sentenced to a term of more than three years, they have been lodged in the Central Jail in Parappana Agrahara. They can apply for bail only from Karnataka High Court which is on vacation till October 6 for Dasara.
The Rs 100 crore fine is the highest imposed on any politician by the special judge who heard the case of Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate assets acquired during her first term as Chief Minister between 1991 and 1996.
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