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CHENNAI: An hour after a seven-foot high portrait of late chief minister J Jayalalithaa was unveiled in the Tamil Nadu assembly by Speaker P Dhanapal, the DMK on Monday moved the Madras high court seeking to remove it, as Jayalalithaa was “found guilty of corruption charges by the Supreme Court.”
When the first bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose commenced its proceedings around 10.30am, senior counsel P Wilson for the DMK made an urgent mention and requested the court to take up the plea on an urgent basis.
However, noting that it had to hear a plea moved by Karti Chidambaram assailing the lookout notice issued by the CBI, as per the direction of the Supreme Court, the bench said it would take up DMK’s plea for hearing on Tuesday.
According to the petitioner, Jayalalithaa was found guilty in corruption charges. She was originally convicted by a special court; later the same was set aside by the Karnataka high court and on appeal, the Supreme Court found all the accused including her guilty of corruption charges, he said.
In view of her demise, she was not sentenced and appeals against her were treated abated. At the same time, the co-accused were convicted, sentenced to four years imprisonment with fine of Rs 100 crore and the properties belonging to the accused were ordered to be attached.
In such circumstances, the DMK had already moved the high court seeking to remove the photos and the name of Jayalalithaa displayed and mentioned in government offices, buildings, public sector undertakings and government schemes, he said. The case is still pending in the court.
While the facts being so, the speaker of the assembly arbitrarily took a decision on February 10 to unveil a portrait of Jayalalithaa in the assembly hall around 9.30am on Monday in the presence of the chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and the deputy chief Minister O Panneerselvam. The speaker unveiled the portrait on Monday morning. .
Claiming that the decision of the speaker was unconstitutional, tainted with illegality, besides highly arbitrary, unreasonable and reeks of malice in law, Wilson said, “It is antithetical to standards of morality and probity enshrined in our Constitution and expounded by the Supreme Court of India from time to time.”
“The intention of the then speakers to display photographs of renowned, eminent, virtuous leaders of the past inside the assembly was to serve as an example and reminder to all the members of the august assembly that the elected representatives should live and conduct themselves like these leaders whose life is an example of the highest standards of public life. It could never have been the intention of the then speakers to hang portraits of convicts, culprits or people convicted for offences involving moral turpitude like corruption,” he said.
“Purity and probity in public life are the touchstones of any democratic setup, and people who have been convicted for graft are the anti-thesis of constitutional governance. The speaker’s autocratic, illegal and arbitrary decision to unveil the portrait of Jayalalithaa, a person who is found to be guilty by the Supreme Court of India, is untenable and cannot be countenanced in law or on morality,” he added.
Wilson then sought the court to grant an interim direction asking the authorities to forthwith remove the portrait of Jayalalithaa from the precincts of assembly, pending disposal of the above plea.
The first portrait of a woman in assembly
The portrait of Jayalalithaa was done by R Mathiazhagan, former principal of Government Arts College. It is the first portrait of a woman in the assembly. Earlier, there are 10 other portraits in the assembly, including those of former chief ministers C Rajagopalachari, C N Annadurai and M G Ramachandran and leaders like Periyar and Muthuramalinga Thevar.
Opposition DMK, Congress and IUML boycotted the function and their seats were occupied by AIADMK cadre. They sat on the seats of all opposition MLAs except the seat of leader of opposition M K Stalin.
AIADMK party songs were played and partymen shouted slogans soon after the portrait was unveiled.
Congress legislator S Vijayadharani, who did not attend the function, later met the speaker and deputy speaker and thanked them for unveiling a woman’s portrait. The Congress is likely to take action against her for going against the party’s decision.