A High Court judge in southern India's Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) overturned all charges of corruption against Tamil leader Jayalalithaa Jayaram on Monday.
Judge C. R. Kumaraswamy's bench dismissed all accusations in the final hearing of her case, which lasted a very short time. Jayalaithaa's close aide Sasikala Natarajan and two other relatives were also acquitted, the Press Trust of India reported.
Initial accusations against the 67-year-old politician were leveled in 1997, but a lower court found her guilty only last year, sentencing her to four years jail and forcing her to resign as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Her acquittal meant she could resume her ministerial office, the Times of India reported.
Supporters of the leader, who is also known as "Amma" or mother, cheered after the court pronounced its judgment. Fans burst crackers and distributed sweets among the crowd assembled outside the court in Bengaluru and Jayalalithaa's house in Chennai.
Accusations against the 67-year-old were leveled after she was found guilty of amassing wealth disproportionate to her income as chief minister of Tamil Nadu in 1997. Police at the time seized assets including 28 kilograms of gold, 10,000 silk saris and more than 750 pairs of shoes, which earned her the epithet, "the Imelda Marcos of India."
Critics question Indian justice system
The court's ruling was however also heavily criticized for letting off a politician who has long since had the reputation of being corrupt while buying voters' loyalty by implementing populist schemes such as the "Amma canteen" where a meal costs only five dollar cents (0.044 euros).
Twitter was abuzz with statements which labeled the judgment as another failure of India's justice system, after the Bombay High Court released Bollywood actor Salman Khan on bail. Khan was charged with killing one person after driving drunk onto a pedestrian walkway where some people were sleeping.
mg/msh (AFP, PTI)