VK Sasikala, sacked AIADMK chief and a close aide of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, is likely to be released from a jail in Bengaluru on January 27. A reply under Right to Information by the prison gives this as the probable date of her release if she pays the fine. If she doesn’t, she will be released on February 27, 2022, they say.
But Sasikala’s lawyer Rajasenthur Pandian is confident that she will be released as early as the 27th of this month. “On good behaviour every prisoner is eligible for three days of remission for every month and this way, for the 43 months she has served so far, her term would be reduced by 129 days. There is no reason to deny her that,” he told NDTV.
He added that police chiefs could also pardon 30 or 60 days based on the prisoner’s track record, if two-thirds of the jail term has been served.
Sasikala, 69, was sent to jail for four years in 2017 in a corruption case in which Jayalalithaa – who died in 2016 — was the accused No 1. She has to pay a fine of Rs 10 crore and 10 lakh according to a court order, which Mr Pandian says is ready.
On the allegations of rules being bent or violated by Sasikala, who even stepped out of jail and enjoyed extra rooms and TV, Mr Pandian said: “This RTI reply proves there is no truth in that. A probe team has given her a clean chit. Adjoining cells were left free by jail authorities to ensure her safety based on intelligence inputs. It was not her fault.”
If her lawyer is to be believed, Sasikala will be freed just before the Tamil Nadu election next year and may therefore become a key political factor in the polls. Having been convicted, she cannot contest elections for two more years.
In the months after the death of Jayalalithaa in office, Sasikala took charge of the ruling AIADMK and even made attempts to take over as Chief Minister until she was sentenced to jail.
Before she went to prison, Sasikala handpicked her then-loyalist E Palanisamy or EPS as Chief Minister, unseating O Panneerselvam (OPS), who had taken over after Jayalalithaa’s death.
She also established her nephew TTV Dhinakaran as number 2 in the party.
Over the past four years, a lot has changed. EPS and OPS patched up and threw Sasikala out of the party. OPS settled for Deputy Chief Minister and became the coordinator of the party, with EPS as joint coordinator in a new collective leadership model.
The AIADMK’s symbol went to them in a court battle against TTV Dhinakaran. While Mr Dhinakaran won Jayalalithaa’s assembly seat RK Nagar in Chennai, he could not expand his footprint beyond that even after launching a new party, Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam.
Though EPS is firmly settled in the top post, his former mentor Sasikala’s return could shake up the ruling party if any of her loyalists – be it ministers or MLAs — were to cross sides. The party recently witnessed a tug-of-war after posters projected him as chief ministerial candidate for the 2021 polls.