Former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s close aide V.K. Sasikala, who got released from prison recently after completing a four-year sentence in a disproportionate assets case, cannot contest either the Assembly or the Parliamentary elections till January 27, 2027, though there is no legal bar for her to lead a party.
Section 8 of the Representation of the People (RoP) Act of 1951 lists out instances when a person will suffer disqualification from contesting elections if he/she gets convicted for certain offences. Section 8(1)(m) brings a conviction under the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act of 1988 under the ambit of disqualification.
The provision of law also states that if a person has only been fined by a court of law for offences such as indulging in terror activities, rape, subjecting women to cruelty and promoting enmity between two groups, listed under Section 8(1), he/she will stand disqualified for six years from the date of such conviction.
However, if he/she has been imprisoned for those offences, then the disqualification will begin from the date of such conviction and continue for a further six years from the date of release from prison. Since Sasikala was also imprisoned, besides being fined, she will stand disqualified for six more years from the date of her release.
A conviction under the PC Act of 1988 was included in the disqualification provision of the RoP Act through an amendment in 2002, when a conviction under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PoTA) of 2002 was also listed as a disqualification from contesting in either the Assembly or Parliamentary elections.
In the case of Sasikala, the trial court had found her guilty under sections 109 (abetment of an offence) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, read with sections 13(1)(e) [being in possession of wealth disproportionate to known sources of income] and 13(d) [criminal misconduct by public servant] of the PC Act of 1998.
Trial judge John Michael Cunha sentenced her to four years of imprisonment and also imposed a fine of ₹10 crore on September 27, 2014. His judgment was confirmed by the Supreme Court on February 14, 2017 and Sasikala went to prison the very next day. Therefore, she remained disqualified during the entire period of imprisonment.
Now, under the second limb of disqualification under Section 8(1) of the 1951 Act, she will stand disqualified for a further period of six years from her release on January 27.