| NEW DELHI
NEW DELHI Feb 14 India's Supreme Court
convicted a confidante of the late chief minister of Tamil Nadu
on Tuesday in a corruption case that will put her behind bars
and effectively end her bid to become chief minister of the
The court found V.K. Sasikala guilty in the disproportionate
assets case, upholding a four-year jail term handed down by a
lower court and banning her from seeking elected office for 10
The verdict delivered a decisive blow against Sasikala, who
had emerged from the shadows after three decades as a
low-profile adviser to claim the mantle of five-times Chief
Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram who died in December.
Sasikala mounted a bid to oust Tamil Nadu's caretaker Chief
Minister O.P. Paneerselvam, corralling lawmakers from their
regional ruling party into a resort hotel in an attempt to stop
them from defecting to her opponent's camp.
The power struggle in the state of more than 70 million that
has attracted foreign auto makers and consumer electronics
firms, comes amid rising social unrest that has raised doubts
over its attractiveness as a place to do business.
Known as the "Detroit of Asia", Tamil Nadu is India's
second-largest manufacturing state. It hosts auto makers
including BMW, Daimler, Hyundai
, Ford, Mitsubishi, Nissan
Sasikala, who first won the favour of Jayalalithaa by making
campaign films and went on to run the household of the
actress-turned-politician, was ordered to turn herself in to a
court in Bengaluru, capital of the neighbouring state of
Karnataka, that convicted both in 2014.
The disproportionate assets case was first filed in 1996 by
Subramanian Swamy, a veteran lawyer and politician from Indian
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nationalist ruling party. "After
20 years, I won," Swamy said in a tweet.
Jayalalithaa was jailed in 2014 for holding 530 million
rupees ($8 million) in unaccounted cash and property accumulated
during her first term in power. She stood down following the
verdict only to be freed on bail, and returned to office months
Sasikala was also a defendant in the case. She has been
ordered to pay a fine of 100 million rupees ($1.5 million) and
cannot appeal the verdict.
"She may file a petition for review, but generally it is not
entertained in criminal matters," said B.V. Acharya, who had
earlier acted as a public prosecutor in the case.
Representatives for Panneerselvam, the acting chief
minister, and for Sasikala could not be reached for comment.
Their party's official Twitter handle expressed its support
for her, saying that whenever Jayalalithaa had been "in despair"
Sasikala had "shared the burden".
"She is doing the same now, truth will prevail," it said.
($1 = 66.9250 Indian rupees)
(Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Michael Perry)