Former Haryana Chief Minister O P Chautala, convicted of illegally recruiting 3,206 teachers in the state, today pleaded with a Delhi court for leniency in sentencing citing his ill health and old age, while the CBI sought maximum punishment for all 55 convicts in the case.
The section 13(1)(d) and section 13(2) (criminal misconduct by public servant) of the Prevention of Corruption Act under which Chautala and his son Ajay Chautala have been convicted entails a maximum sentence of seven-year jail term and minimum of one year.
Fifty other convicts, the chairpersons and members of the district level selection committee, have been convicted under section 467 (forgery of valuable security) of the IPC, and face up to life term as punishment.
CBI prosecutors I P Vaid and A P Singh, however, sought maximum punishment for all the convicts from the court of Special CBI Judge Vinod Kumar arguing that it is a case of economic offence and against the system.
The court will pronounce the sentence on January 22.
The 78-year-old Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) chief said he is a diabetic patient, has 70 per cent disability in his right leg and is also suffering from various other ailments.
Chautala’s counsel also said he has clean antecedents as he has been the chief minister of Haryana for five times and “if he would have committed anything wrong, public would not have voted for him.”
“O P Chautala and Ajay Chautala are public figures and their political career has already been demolished after being convicted and sent to Tihar Jail. So, now a lenient view should be taken towards them in sentencing,” the counsel said.
The prosecutors said offences committed by the convicts was against the country’s interest and as they are public figures, a strong message should be sent to the society.
Chautala, his MLA son Ajay and 53 others including two IAS officers Vidya Dhar and Sanjiv Kumar, were convicted yesterday on corruption and other charges by a Delhi court for illegally recruiting 3,206 junior teachers 12 years back, and were sent to Tihar Jail.
Haryana Primary Education Department’s erstwhile Director Sanjiv Kumar, who initially was a whistle blower in the case but was made accused by the CBI in it, sought leniency saying if he is sent to jail it would cause an irreparable loss to his children and their career.
Kumar had approached the Supreme Court exposing the teachers recruitment scam and the apex court had on November 25, 2005 directed the CBI to investigate the case.
Kumar’s wife, who along with him argued in the court, said “deterrent punishment should not be given to whistle blowers otherwise no one will come forward to expose any crime.”
Defence counsel Amit Kumar also sought leniency for other convicts saying they are suffering from various ailments including heart, diabetic and old age problems.
Meanwhile, the court also allowed a plea for separate jail vans for Chautalas, the then political advisor to the CM Sher Singh Badshami and Sanjiv Kumar on the ground that they face threat to their lives from other inmates.
The court also directed jail superintendent to consider as per jail manual, O P Chautala’s plea for western closet due to his alleged physical disability and to take him to Medanta Medicity Hospital for treatment.
The court also allowed a combined plea of defence counsel Kumar seeking adequate blankets, hygienic sanitary facilities and proper food for remaining 50 convicts, including 16 women, who all are senior citizens.
The judge considered the counsel’s plea and directed the IG (Prison) and the jail superintendent to provide better facilities to the senior citizens who complained that they were not given adequate blankets last night in the chilly weather and were not provided with proper food.
The court will hear arguments of rest of the convicts on quantum of sentence on January 19 and 21.
Both the Chautalas along with others were convicted of illegally recruiting 3,206 junior basic trained (JBT) teachers in the state in the year 2000.
The court has convicted the 55 persons for the offences including cheating, forgery, using fake documents as genuine, conspiracy under the IPC and for abusing their official position under the Prevention of Corruption Act.