`Disclosure In I-T Returns Doesn’t Make Them Lawful To Repel Graft Charges’
In its judgment deflating Sasikala‘s ambition to become CM of Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court has dealt a blow to gift-loving public servants by ruling that presents could not be counted as income from lawful sources.Abench of Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Amitava Roy said: “Gifts to Jayalalithaa, a public servant in the context of Sections 161 to 165A of Indian Penal Code now integrated into the Prevention of Corruption Act, are visibly illegal and forbidden by law.The endeavour to strike a distinction between `legal’ and `unlawful’ as sought to be made to portray gifts to constitute a lawful source of income is thus wholly misconstrued.“

The bench added: “With the advent of the PC Act, 1988, and consequent upon the expansion of the scope of definition of `public servant’ and the integration of Section 161 to 165A IPC in the said statute, the claim of the defence to treat the gifts offered to Jayalalithaa on her birthday as lawful income, thus cannot receive judicial imprimatur.“

The court was informed by the counsel for Jayalalithaa that the income tax department did not view receipt of gifts as crime if one disclosed them and paid tax. The counsel had requested the court to take a similar view.

Rejecting the contention, the SC said: “To reiterate, disclosure of such gifts in the I-T returns of Jayalalithaa and orders of the I-T authorities on the basis thereof do not validate the said receipts to elevate the same to lawful income to repel the charge under Section 13(1)(e) of the PC Act.“

While dealing with the nexus between Jayalalithaa as the kingpin and associates Sasikala, V N Sudhakaran and J Elavarasi, the SC said: “The unimpeded, frequent and spontaneous inflow of funds from the accounts of Ja yalalithaa to those of the other co-accused and the firmscompanies involved overwhelmingly demonstrate the collective culpable involvement of the respondents in the transactions in the face of their overall orientation so as to render the same to be masked banking exchanges though involving several accounts but mostly of the same bank. No other view is possible.“ The SC accepted the trial court finding that although Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Elavarasi claimed to have independent sources of income, “but the fact of constitution of firms and acquisition of large tracts of land out of the funds provided by Jayalalithaa indicate that all the accused congregated in the house of Jayalalithaa neither for social living nor Jayalalithaa allowed them free accommodation out of humanitarian concern“.

“The facts and circumstances proved in evidence undoubtedly point out that Sasikala, Sudhakaran and Elavarasi were accommodated in Jayalalithaa’s house pursuant to the criminal conspiracy hatched by them to hold Jayalalithaa’s assets,“ the SC said.