Former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, his MLA son Ajay Chautala and 53 others including two IAS officers were today convicted on corruption and other charges by a Delhi court for illegally recruiting 3,206 junior teachers 12 years back, and sent to Tihar Jail.
The 78-year-old senior Chautala, the chief of Indian National Lok Dal, was held as the "main conspirator" by Special CBI Judge Vinod Kumar in his 308-page verdict.
The court will hear arguments on quantum of sentence on January 17, 19 and 21 and pronounce the punishment on January 22.
The father-son duo along with others were convicted for illegally recruiting 3,206 junior basic trained (JBT) teachers in the state in the year 2000.
The court said, "All the accused are held guilty for the offences of cheating, forgery, using fake documents as genuine, conspiracy under the IPC and for abusing their official position under the Prevention of Corruption Act."
While holding that under Chautala, the state government officials were "executing this scam", the court said, "There is a complete chain of circumstances which pinned down accused Om Prakash Chautala as the main conspirator."
As per Section 8 of the Representation of People Act, a candidate is disqualified and debarred from contesting polls if convicted and handed a prison sentence of two years or more. The ban would remain in force from date of conviction to six years after release from prison.
Among the 55 convicted are the then Director of Primary Education Sanjiv Kumar, Chautala's former Officer on Special Duty Vidya Dhar, both IAS officers, political advisor to the then Haryana CM Sher Singh Badshami and 16 women officials.
The court relied on the testimony of Sanjiv Kumar who initially was a whistle blower but in the CBI probe that followed he was also found to be involved in the scam.
Other than the 55 accused, their counsel, prosecutors and the court staff, the judge did not allow anyone else to enter the court room at the time of pronouncement of judgement.
Relatives and family members of the accused and media persons were asked to stand behind barricades set up outside the courtroom, as the proceedings were held amidst tight security.
"...It was O P Chautala on whose behalf these accused persons were executing this scam. In view of these overall circumstances and the testimony of Sanjiv Kumar (co-accused) is worthy of credence that around the time he was posted as the Director of Primary Education, O P Chautala had called him and had directed him to change the award list with fresh award list because now his government had got full majority and there was no need for him to accommodate the MLAs of other parties," the court said.
Chautala's INLD had got majority in Haryana in 2000 and the scam was also committed in the same year.
The court said, "Profuse evidence is available on record to show that it was O P Chautala who was managing the whole affairs".
According to the prosecution, the convicts had appointed 3,206 JBT teachers in the state during that period.
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 said that first IAS officer R P 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 said.
"When Rajni recommended for compilation of results vide her note sheet of June 20, 2000, she was also transferred and Sanjiv Kumar was appointed in her place," the court said, adding that Kumar's testimony proves that he was brought with a "specific mandate of changing the award lists."
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.
"Thus, the conspiracy which started from taking out the vacancies of JBT teachers out of the purview of the Staff Selection Commission vide cabinet decision of September 8, 1999, was fully executed and successfully ended when the successful candidates based on the fake lists were given appointments in October 2000.
"Hence, a complete chain of events involving all the accused persons in commission of this offence stands proved beyond reasonable doubt," the court said.
It 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 O P Chautala who was the Chief Minister at that time despite the fact that the item was not in the agenda," it said.
Regarding the role of the then Member of Parliament Ajay Chautala in the scam, the court said that he was in constant touch with Sanjiv Kumar in 2000 when the fake award list was being prepared.
"Ajay Chautala had a stake in the parliamentary constituency of district Bhiwani and the final result shows that the candidates selected from that district far exceeded the vacancies of that district.
"Thus, Ajay Chautala stands fully proved to be conspiring in this scam," it said.
The court said that soon after taking the JBT selection out of the purview of the Staff Selection Commission, the interview marks of the candidates were increased by O P Chautala from 12.5 per cent to 20 per cent.
But, their plan could not succeed due to prevailing political situation where he was running a government in coalition with others, it said.
The court also dismissed the contention of the defence counsel who had claimed that IAS officer Rajni Shekri Sibal, a CBI witness in the case, was testifying falsely as she was a close relative of Kapil Sibal and had links with leaders of Congress party.
Similarly, the court also rejected the contention of the defence counsel that other prosecution witnesses, including bureaucrats, were deposing falsely at the instance of the Congress Party.
The judge also said the CBI's investigation in the case was not biased against any of the accused for any reasons including the "political" one.
The court, however, 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 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, said that during investigation the CBI found him to be a "comrade in crime".