In a blow to an already beleaguered AIADMK Government, a special court in Chennai on Monday convicted Sports Minister Balakrishna Reddy in a stone-pelting case and sentenced him three years.
Special Judge Shanthi convicted Reddy and 15 other AIADMK men under the Tamil Nadu Prevention of Public Property Act and sentenced them to three years RI. She aquitted the remaining accused.
The case related to street violence indulged in by AIADMK protestors in 1998 in Dharmapuri against illicit distillation of liquor in the Karnataka border. Reddy and 107 AIADMK men were arraigned before the session court . Reddy-led mob was accused of having stoned State Government buses.
After the constitution of a special court to deal with cases against MPs and MLAs in Chennai, it was transferred to it from the sessions court in Dharmapuri a few years ago.
Special Judge Shanthi found Reddy guilty under Sec 3 of the Tamil Nadu Property( Prevention of damage and loss) Act of 1992 and sentenced him to undergo three years imprisonment and pay a fine of Rs 10,000.
As a result, he stands automatically disqualified under the Representation of the People Act (RPA). Under the disqualification law, mere conviction is enough to disqualify a member in a corruption case, as it happened to former Chief Minister J Jayalalitha. However, for other offences like the one against Balakrishna Reddy, disqualification will apply if the sentence is for a minimum of two years imprisonment
Reddy cannot escape disqualification even if he goes in appeal within the mandatory period as the relevant provision, Sec 8(4) of the RP Act, which allows MPs and MLAs to continue till disposal of appeal, was quashed by the Supreme Court in 2013 as ultra vires of the Constitution.
He has already been granted bail and he has been given leave to go in appeal to the High Court. The Edappadi K Palanisami has been surviving on a working majority after the disqualification of 18 legislators belonging to rebel leader T T V Dinakaran and the consequent reduction in the effective strength of the 234-member House. Its position has been bolstered by the Madras High Court judgment upholding the Speaker’s action in disqualifying the rebel MLAs.
Since then, sitting members M Karunandhi and A K Bose have died, taking the vacancy to 20. The effective strength therefore is 214 and the half way mark is 117. The AIADMK has only 116.
With Balakrishnan’s disqualification, the AIADMK’s strength has come down to 115.