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Sasikala’s oath delayed as governor seeks legal opinion

AIADMK general secretary V.K. Sasikala’s swearing-in as chief minister of Tamil Nadu is likely to be delayed by a few days with governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao seeking legal opinion on her assuming charge since the verdict in the disproportionate assets case against her is set to be pronounced by the Supreme Court next week.

Highly-placed sources told this newspaper that Mr Rao was in no hurry to administer the oath to Ms Sasikala as he has not extended an invitation to the AIADMK leader to be sworn in as chief minister.

The sources said the governor wants to wait till the verdict of the Supreme Court, expected next week, on whether Ms Sasikala, a close aide of late chief minister J. Jayalalithaa, was guilty of corruption charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act, in the 21-year-old `66-crore disproportionate assets case.

They also noted that while accepting the resignation of O. Panneerselvam, the governor had asked him and his ministers to continue till alternative arrangements were made. “The government led by Mr Panneerselvam will continue for some more days before the governor forms his opinion on the AIADMK Legislature Party resolution electing Ms Sasikala as its new leader,” the sources said.

They said the governor was very particular about waiting as the Supreme Court had struck down the appointment of the late J. Jayalalithaa as CM in 2001 by then governor Fatima Beevi. The court had found fault with the manner in which the governor had rushed with the swearing-in of Jayalalithaa. The SC had then ruled: “The governor cannot, in the exercise of his/her discretion or otherwise, do anything that is contrary to the Constitution and the laws. Therefore, the governor, having due regard to the Constitution and the laws, must decline to exercise the discretion in appointing as chief minister a non-member who was not qualified to become a member of the legislature.”

Mr Rao, who is Maharashtra governor and holds additional charge of Tamil Nadu, consulted with legal experts on how to go about the issue during his stay in New Delhi and left for Mumbai late on Monday evening.

The governor, who was to attend the annual convocation of Bharathiar University in Coimbatore on Tuesday, has cancelled his programme.

The Karnataka high court had acquitted Ms Sasikala along with the late Jayalalithaa in the disproportionate assets case, but the verdict has been challenged in the Supreme Court and the judgment has been reserved.

There was intense speculation till late Monday that the swearing-in would be held on Tuesday morning, but it died down after Mr Rao left for Mumbai from New Delhi. He flew to Delhi from Coimbatore late on Sunday evening to attend the wedding reception of HRD minister Prakash Javadekar’s son.

Senior state ministers and AIADMK leaders visited the Centenary Auditorium of Madras University on Monday and are understood to have reviewed arrangements for the ceremony at the sprawling venue, where Ms Sasikala’s late friend J. Jayalalithaa took the oath as chief minister just about nine months ago.

Tamil Nadu chief secretary Girija Vaidyanathan met Ms Sasikala for the second time in as many days. She is understood to have discussed the preparations for the swearing-in ceremony.


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