National

In 2000, it took three days for Special Court to assess Jayalalithaa-Sasikala's jewels

In the first week of February of 2000, five big suitcases were brought from the Reserve Bank of India (Chennai) to the Special Court-I, then housed at the Chennai Collectorate building. Guarded by a heavy posse of police personnel, these suitcases contained glittering gold and diamond jewellery belonging to AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa, her close friend Sasikala and disowned foster son V.N. Sudhakaran.

The presiding judge S. Sambandham had ordered the prosecution to produce the jewels, all seized from Jayalalithaa's Veda Nilayam bungalow in Poes Garden and from Sudhakaran's house, so that an inventory could be made and marked as prosecution exhibits.

There was palpable excitement in the court hall with the lawyers, staff, journalists and even the policemen marvelling at each ornament that was taken out of the suitcase one by one. The judge examined them and handed it over to the staff, who showed it to the public prosecutor and defence lawyers before putting it back in the suitcase.

Eyes popped when a waist belt (odiyanam), worn by Jayalalithaa and Sasikala in the famous photograph in which they were bedecked in similar jewellery and sarees, was produced. [The prosecution said another odiyanam was never found during the raids]. The waist belt, weighing 1,044 gm was bedecked with 2,389 diamonds, 18 emeralds and 9 rubies.

When a diamond-studded gold belt, which was worn by Sudhakaran during his infamous mega wedding in 1995, was taken out, an excited journalist too held it in his hand before passing it on to the court staff.

Curiously, a male typist got carried away and put a 'kaasumalai' weighing 487.4 gm around his neck for a while before handing it over to others. The seriousness of his act dawned on him much later. At the end of the day's proceedings, the typist met journalists and pleaded with them not to report the incident as the judge would issue a memo to him. The journalists obliged. But by a quirk of fate one week later he was served a memo after a Tamil daily carried a translated version of a report published in the New York Times by a foreign journalist, who mentioned this incident based on inputs provided by a court reporter.

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