Sasikala is out on parole for husband’s funeral

VK Sasikala, who is serving her sentence after her conviction in the disproportionate assets case at the Parappana Agrahara Central Prisons in Bengaluru, has been granted on March 20 an emergency parole of 15 days to attend the funeral of her husband Natarajan M, who died at a private hospital in Chennai.

The parole was sanctioned after her advocates filed an application following her husband’s demise. The 15-day parole includes two days of travelling to and from Thanjavur, where the final rites of Natarajan is to take place, media reports quoted a senior jail official a saying.

Sasikala has been instructed not to take part in any political activity or interact with her supporters or the media. She has also been instructed not to travel anywhere outside Arulananda Nagar in Thanjavur and return back to the prison by April 3.

Background

Sasikala, a Tamil Nadu-based politician and a business person, was the general secretary of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. She was a close aide of J. Jayalalithaa, the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, who headed AIADMK from 1989 until her death in 2016. After Jayalalithaa’s death, the party’s general council unanimously appointed her as the interim secretary general of AIADMK. She is the aunt of TTV Dhinakaran.

She was arrested along with Jayalalithaa on 7 December 1996 and was remanded to judicial custody for 30 days in connection with the Colour TV scam. During Jayalalithaa’s three tenures as Chief Minister, Sasikala was alleged to have laundered huge amounts of wealth amassed by Jayalalitha. On 14 February 2017, a two-bench Supreme Court jury pronounced her guilty and ordered her immediate arrest in a disproportionate-assets case, effectively ending her Chief Ministerial ambitions.

Sasikala was born in a Kallar family from Thiruthuraipoondi who later moved to Mannargudi. Her marriage to M. Natarajan was presided over by DMK leader M. Karunanidhi. Her husband, who was a public relations officer in the Government of Tamil Nadu, worked closely with the District Collector of Cuddalore, V. S. Chandralekha, who in turn was very close to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. G. Ramachandran.

In the early 1980s, M. Natarajan requested V. S. Chandralekha, who was then the District Collector of South Arcot, to introduce his wife Sasikala to Jayalalithaa, who was then the Propaganda Secretary of the Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, for recording video of party functions. Sasikala and Jayalalithaa gradually became very close.

On 19 December 2011, Jayalalithaa expelled Sasikala Natarajan and 13 others including Sasikala’s husband M. Natarajan, T. T. V. Dhinakaran, their relatives, and Jayalalithaa’s disowned foster son V. N. Sudhakaran from the AIADMK.

Jayalalithaa alleged that Sasikala and her family were working against her. The matter was resolved by 31 March 2012, when Sasikala Natarajan was reinstated as a party member after issuing a written apology.

In a meeting held on 29 December 2016 – the first after Jayalalithaa’s death on 5 December 2016 – the AIADMK general council unanimously appointed Sasikala as the party’s general secretary.

On 5 February 2017, Sasikala was unanimously elected as the AIADMK Legislature Party Leader by a meeting of all the MLAs in the party. Tamil Nadu Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao accepted the resignation of Chief Minister O Panneerselvam on 6 February 2017, and instructed him to continue to function as acting Chief Minister “until alternate arrangements are made”.

On 14 February 2017, the Supreme Court of India found Sasikala and her co-accused — Ilavarasi (her sister-in-law) and V. N. Sudhakaran (her nephew) — guilty of conspiring, laundering and amassing illicit wealth worth about ₹66.44 crore (equivalent to ₹259 crore or US$40 million in 2017) in the 1990s in a criminal conspiracy with Jayalalithaa. The three were sentenced to a four-year jail term. This restored in toto her earlier conviction in the case delivered on 27 September 2014, awarding a four-year jail term to her and her relatives, in addition to imposing a fine of ₹10 crore (US$1.5 million) each. The judgment stipulated that she and her accomplices would serve an additional 12 months in prison if they failed to pay the fine.

The Supreme Court refused her plea to surrender after a fortnight and to be allowed to have food from home, so Sasikala and Ilavarasi, but not Sudhakaran, presented themselves for imprisonment on 15 February 2017.

Filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma has announced that he is planning a film covering Sasikala’s early life and the things she did to gain entry into Tamil Nadu politics.

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