In a judgment that could have electoral ramifications in Haryana, former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala and his son Ajay Chautala were today sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for corruption amidst scenes of violence by his supporters in a Delhi court complex.
Special CBI Judge Vinod Kumar, who last week had convicted the Chautalas and 53 others, including two IAS officers, for corruption in a teachers’ recruitment scam and other charges, on Tuesday handed them varying jail terms.
Chautala senior, 78, a four-time former chief inister, and his son 51-year-old Ajay Chautala are both sitting MLAs and could stand disqualified from contesting the assembly elections next year if their conviction is not stayed by a higher court.
Under the Representation of the People Act, a person convicted of any offence and sentenced to more than two years imprisonment shall be disqualified from the date of conviction and for a further period of six years after his release.
Unfazed by the violence outside, the judge read out the order of sentencing as Chautala’s supporters thronged the court complex threw stones and crude bombs and clashed with police who resorted to lathi charge and use of tear gas in a bid to restore order.
The senior Chautala was not present in the court because of his hospitalisation after being taken into custody last week, his son and all the other convicts were present in the court.
Apart from the Chautalas, the court has awarded ten years imprisonment to Sanjiv Kumar, the then director of primary education, Chautala’s former officer on special duty Vidya Dhar, both IAS officers, and political advisor to the then Haryana CM Sher Singh Badshami, curently a sitting MLA.
All the 55 convicts have been convicted and sentenced under sections 120B(criminal conspiracy) , 418(cheating), 467(forgery), 471 (using forged documents as genuine) of the IPC and sections 13 (1) (d) and 13 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Apart from the five main accused, four others including a woman have been awarded 10 years jail term, one has been given five years and the remaining 45 given four years sentence.
Earlier in the morning, much before the court was to pronounce the sentence, hundreds of supporters of Indian National Lok Dal today clashed with police which used batons and teargas to control them outside the court where barricades were set up to prevent them from entering.
The supporters hurled bottles filled with flammable spirits into the court complex but none was injured.
The supporters had gathered outside the complex in the early hours and clashed with police after it prevented them from entering the court complex. The police used batons and teargas to control the supporters.
Security has been tightened around the complex and entry has been restricted in the court. The court work was also affected and lawyers faced problems getting in.
On January 16, the court had held 78-year-old Om Prakash Chautala, his son Ajay Chautala and 53 others guilty of illegally recruiting 3,206 junior basic trained (JBT) teachers in the state in 2000.
Apart from the five main accused, the four others who were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment are Durga Dutt Pradhan, Bani Singh, Daya Saini and Madan Lal Kalra.
Five years imprisonment was handed down to Pushkar Mal Verma.
Earlier in the day, District Judge SK Sarvaria, several judges and senior police officers went around the court complex to inspect security and to see what can be done to manage the welling crowd outside the Rohini court.
The court on January 16, while convicting all the 55 accused in the case of illegal recruitment of 3,206 junior basic trained teachers, had held Chautala senior as the “main conspirator”.
The court had relied on the testimony of Sanjiv Kumar who initially was a whistle blower but in the CBI probe that followed he was found to be involved in the scam.
The CBI had filed its charge sheet in a Delhi court after its probe established that a conspiracy on making second lists was hatched at Haryana Bhawan here by calling the chairpersons and members of the district-level selection committees of 18 districts.
They were also called at a guest house in Chandigarh, where the modalities were worked out, it had said.
The court had said that first IAS officer RP Chander (CBI witness), who was the then Director of Primary Education, had given a proposal for declaring the results of successful candidates in April 2000, but he was transferred on the next day itself.
Subsequently, IAS officer Rajni Shekri Sibal (CBI witness), was brought in at Chander’s place and she was asked by accused Badshami and Vidya Dhar to change the award lists in the presence of Ajay Chautala, it had said.
Out of the initial 62 accused, six had died during the trial while one had been discharged by the court at the time of framing of charges.
The apex court had in its order on Sanjiv Kumar’s plea on November 25, 2003, directed CBI to take up the investigation of the case.
The judge mentioned how the accused, chairpersons and members of district level selection committee, had prepared and signed the fake award list upon which the results were declared and thereafter successful candidates were given appointments.
It had also rejected the submissions of the defence counsel that for a cabinet decision, the council of ministers were responsible collectively.
“Although, the cabinet decision was taken by the council of ministers, but, it must be remembered that it was done with the permission of OP Chautala, who was the chief minister at that time despite the fact that the item was not on the agenda,” it had said.
Regarding the role of the then member of Parliament Ajay Chautala in the scam, the court had said that he was in constant touch with Sanjiv Kumar in 2000 when the fake award list was being prepared.
The court, however, had agreed with the submissions of defence counsel Amit Kumar that the signatures of his clients, who were members of district level selection committee, were taken on the award lists by “putting pressure, threatening them of depriving them from their pension benefits, transferring them or their wives, children and relatives to far off places, etc.
The court had also accepted that Sanjiv Kumar was a whistle blower in the case because if he had not approached the Supreme Court and had not filed the original award lists there, this scam would have never come into light.
It, however, had said that during investigation the CBI found him to be a “comrade in crime”.