Congress MP Rasheed Masood was sentenced to four years in jail here Tuesday for fraudulently nominating undeserving students for MBBS seats when he was a minister in 1990, becoming the first MP set to lose his seat under a new Supreme Court ruling.
The Rajya Sabha member, a party hopper from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, remained calm as Special CBI Court judge J.P.S. Malik held the 67-year-old guilty of cheating and corruption. He was also fined Rs.60,000.
Once the verdict was pronounced at the Tis Hazari court, Masood was taken away to the Tihar Central Jail to begin his sentence — a landmark event in Indian politics.
A jail official said Masood will share space with other convicts in jail no. 5.
Also held guilty were former IPS officer Gurdial Singh and retired IAS officer Amal Kumar Roy. They too were sentenced to four years in jail, and fined Rs.1 lakh each.
Nine students, who got admission in medical colleges and were convicted for cheating, were sentenced to a year’s imprisonment each. They moved for bail.
The Central Bureau of Investigation sought seven years’ jail term for the MP, saying the “lawmaker has become the law-breaker”.
Born on the day India became independent, Masood, who studied law in the Aligarh Muslim University, has been associated with several political parties including the Bharatiya Kranti Dal, Janata Party, Lok Dal, Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party and Congress.
Tuesday’s sentencing brought the curtains down on a case that began in 1990 when Masood was the health minister in the National Front government of V.P. Singh from April to November 1990.
Using his authority, Masood was accused of fraudulently nominating undeserving candidates from across the country to the MBBS seats allotted to medical colleges in Tripura from the central pool.
Masood loses the right to contest elections for 10 years as a convicted leader cannot fight elections for six years from the date of release from prison.
He will lose membership of the Rajya Sabha as an MP and a state legislator stand disqualified if convicted for crimes with punishment of two years or more and under some other laws even without jail sentence.
An embarrassed Congress reacted blandly to the development. Party spokesman Meem Afzal said the party does not comment on court decisions.
“The law will take its own course,” he said, adding that Masood had a right to approach a higher court.
The Bharatiya Janata Party claimed credit for the sentencing. Spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain said the corrupt will now fear the consequences. “We had kept up the pressure.”
Masood was found guilty under the Prevention of Corruption Act and for criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery. He was acquitted of the charge of using a forged document.
As the media was not allowed inside the CBI court, the defence lawyer read out the verdict to the media.
“Rasheed Masood four years, Roy four years, Gurdial Singh four years. The student beneficiaries one year,” said the lawyer, Harpreet.
On July 10, the Supreme Court struck down a provision in electoral law that provided protection to incumbent MPs and legislators by allowing them to continue in their posts if they appeal against a lower court conviction and secure a stay order within 90 days.
Tuesday’s verdict came a day after a Ranchi court convicted former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad and 44 others for illegal withdrawal of millions of rupees from undivided Bihar’s animal husbandry department in the early 1990s.
Lalu Prasad, who is now in jail, will get to know his prison sentence Thursday. Depending on the sentence, he too is expected to lose membership of the Lok Sabha, where he represents Saran constituency.