Dhinakaran's day in court: He was left to fight the battle alone
In the neighbouring court the decision for Sasikala’s request for video-conferencing in the FERA case was to be heard.
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Sixty-five days ago, just before heading to the Parappana Agrahara jail in Bangalore, the beloved Chinnamma of the AIADMK - Sasikala Natrajan - took a quick decision.
A decision that was to ensure that her hand held the reins of the party and the government - first the appointment of TTV Dhinakaran, her nephew, as the deputy general secretary of the AIADMK and second, cherry-picking her cabinet minister and appointing Edappadi K Palanisamy as Tamil Nadu CM.
In the last two months, the Manargudi family that pretended to have a strong hold over the AIADMK has slowly lost all its loyalists; even the few (eight to be precise) who visited Dhinakaran on April 19 did not stay by his side as he faced a 21-year-old case all alone at the Egmore court in Chennai.
Dhinakaran had confidently called for a meeting of his MLAs and district secretaries at 2.30pm at the AIADMK headquarters to prove his strength but his first visit to the court at 10.30am was the first sign of his fizzling confidence.
As he rushed back from the court with the judge passing over the case to 3pm, Dhinakaran had to make a quick decision; avoiding the media at the court as he reached his residence in Adayar, he had formulated his action plan.
In an unexpected manner, Dhinakaran clarified that he was ready to move away from the AIADMK and did not want to be the person who was splitting the party. He announced: “I am not going to be emotional. This is a cadre-based party and I am not worried about being sidelined. If that is what they want, I am okay with it.”
As he cancelled the meeting scheduled for 2.30pm, he made it a point to announce, “Some people are targeting my family. This is our party and some people are having some fear and I wish they would come and speak to me about it.”
After this, he was also seen tweeting the same details before heading to the Egmore court where his case was coming up. At 2.45pm, 15 minutes before scheduled, Dhinakaran reached the Egmore magistrate court headed by judge Malarmathi and another five minutes later, he and his advocates entered the court where the Enforcement Directorate case was to be heard.
Sasikala and Dhinakaran presented themselves to be the legitimate heirs of the AIADMK and Jayalalithaa.
The enthusiasm and the smiling face with which Dhinakaran came to court and bowed to the learned judge did not last long as he was asked to step out since the court had not begun its proceedings.
“The case is at 3pm and you are not called in yet. This is my court, please step out and come in only when you are called,” said judge Malarmathy. At dot 3pm, the case was called and the empty court was filled with lawyers, media professionals and Dhinakaran at the centre of all the attention.
As the hearing began, Dhinakaran’s counsel seemed to have had a rough start; the court rejected their request for more time to file a chargesheet. Noting that the court had given three week's time already, which was a long time for a 21-year-old case, judge Malarmathy went ahead with reading out the case details.
Interesting was the body language of Dhinakaran as he heard the case sheet as accused. Calm, controlled, hoping to impress the judge with his humility and trying to show that he is a law-abiding citizen.
When the charges were being denied, he gave a look of approval towards his counsel of advocates and more confidently said yes to examining the witnesses in the case, which is related to the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA).
Once the case was posted for cross examination on May 10, it was seen that the team of lawyers once again requested for rescheduling the second FERA case that was to be heard on April 20 - which was immediately denied by the learned judge.
On April 20, what was waiting for the media was a much interesting scenario, a scene that can clue in the audience for the drama. As the court started at 10am, along with the men and women in black robes the court premises were filled with journalists typing out quick updates. Two cases were going to be heard in succession in the neighbouring courts.
At 10.30am, as judge Malarmathy called for Dhinakaran for the second of the FERA case, his absence was not taken well. “This will be the last chance given, the case has been posted for April 24 and he has to be here, or the court will pass its order,” said the honourable judge.
As this got over, in the neighbouring court the decision for Sasikala’s request for video-conferencing in the J Jay TV-related FERA case was to be heard. At around 10.40am, within minutes of the case starting, the ED court headed by Zakkir Hussain passed the case for noon.
At 12 pm, when the case was brought up, Sasikala’s counsel insisted that she be made present through video-conferencing as she was suffering from back problems and couldn't travel. Also, the counsel gave examples of instances where the Supreme Court allowed video-conferencing for examining an accused. The ED insisted that Sasikala be personally present for the case. The final decision on this request will be made on May 4.
Sasikala and Dhinakaran, who presented themselves to be the legitimate heirs of the AIADMK and of former CM J Jayalalithaa, have in the last five months lost more ground than what they could have imagined.
Cornered and left alone in the battlefield the once trusted aides of Jayalalithaa will certainly be missing their queen. The queen who, with her iron fist, had ensured that danger was away from her state, away from her disciples.