Bengaluru: Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, J. Jayalalithaa’s close aide, V. K. Sasikala was released from Bengaluru’s central prison — Parappana Agrahara Central Jail — on Wednesday after prison authorities completed the release formalities.
The central jail authorities wore Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits and completed the formalities at the hospital where she is presently undergoing treatment for Covid infection. Her sister-in-law, J. Ilavaris too was admitted in the same hospital on January 22.
She will, however, remain in the hospital as she is being treated for Covid.
Parappana Agarahara Central Prison chief Superintendent V. S. Murthy stated that woman prison inmate number 9234 – Sasikala Natarajan, completed her prison term on January 27 and she has been released as per the court’s order.
The health bulletin issued by the Victoria Hospital at 11.30 a.m. on Wednesday, stated that Sasikala has been freed as per an official order at 11 a.m. on January 27.
Sasikala will continue to be at Victoria Hospital for the next four to five days, the hospital’s medical superintendent said.
The bulletin added that according to the Covid protocols, the patients can be discharged 10 days after testing if they are asymptomatic.
“They also need to have been without the need for oxygen for three days and Sasikala has maintained oxygen saturation of 96/97 without oxygen for the past 12 hours,” the bulletin explained.
A huge crowd of her supporters lined up outside Victoria Hospital, raising slogans in her favour and distributed sweets in celebration.
She was rushed to the government’s Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital on January 20 from the prison hospital, after falling ill there and had been transferred to Victoria Hospital the following day, where she tested Covid positive.
The 63-year-old leader was reportedly unwell in her prison cell for about a week before being admitted to Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital by the prison doctors with a diagnosis of type II diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hypothyroidism, urinary tract infection (UTI) and suspected Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI).
Her release comes on a day when Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami inaugurates a Rs 79 crore memorial to J. Jayalalithaa along Chennai’s Marina Beach.
Sasikala served her four-year prison term in a disproportionate assets case since February 15, 2017. The case pertains to amassing disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs 66.65 crore during J. Jayalalithaa’s tenure as chief minister of Tamil Nadu from 1991-1996.
In September 2013, a special court convicted Jayalalithaa to simple imprisonment of four years. She was slapped with a Rs 100 crore fine and forced to step down as the CM. The three co-accused — V. K. Sasikala, V. N. Sudhakaran and J. Ilavarasi — were also convicted. They were penalised with a fine of Rs 10 crore each.
Jayalalithaa challenged the conviction in the Karnataka High Court, which acquitted her of all charges. But in 2017, the Supreme Court upheld the special court verdict convicting all four of them. Charges against Jayalalithaa were abated in view of her death on December 5, 2016.
Soon after Jayalaithaa’s death, Sasikala, who is also known as Chinnamma, took over the reins of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in December 2016 but was later expelled from the party by the Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami-led camp.
Her stay in Bengaluru prison too kicked off a row when Deputy Inspector General (Prisons) D. Roopa on July 12, 2017 submitted a report to State Police Chief Rupak Kumar Dutta and the Anti-Corruption Bureau, stating that AIADMK leader V. K. Sasikala Natarajan was receiving VIP treatment in the jail. This case came to be known as the Sasikala bribery case.
Highlighting violation of eight prison rules, Roopa’s report stated that Sasikala has an exclusive kitchen and is provided with an inmate to help her with her daily chores.
The report alleged that prison officials may have received a bribe of Rs 2 crore to give preferential treatment to Sasikala, and the Director General of Prisons H. N. Satyanarayana Rao could also be a beneficiary. She demanded that a fair probe should be conducted.
Sasikala again came into the limelight in late November 2019, when the Income Tax department had reportedly attached benami properties valued at Rs 1,600 crore allegedly belonging to her under the provisions of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act. It is further alleged that nine properties, located in Chennai, Puducherry and Coimbatore, were purchased soon after demonetisation.