In a verdict that can change electoral equations in Haryana, former Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala and his son Ajay Chautala were today awarded 10 years' jail term for corruption in a teachers' recruitment scam case.
Brushing aside the violence outside the Rohini court complex by hundreds of supporters who threw petrol bombs and stones, Special CBI Judge Vinod Kumar refused to show leniency in the sentencing saying the "enormity" of the offences committed by the convicts was "enhanced" by the "brazenness" with which constitutional rights were violated.
The court sentenced 78-year-old Chautala, his son 51-year-old Ajay Chautala and 53 others, including two IAS officers, for various offences.
The conviction came 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 in the case relating to illegal recruitment of 3,206 junior basic trained
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.
The five-time former Chief Minister, and his son Ajay 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.
Chautala's party Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) is the largest opposition in the Haryana assembly with 30 MLAs in a House of 90 members. Today's sentencing of the Chautalas could come as a serious setback in the 2014 elections if they are not able to contest. In an essentially three-way race among Congress, INLD and BJP-Haryana Janhit Congress combination.
Apart from the Chautalas, the court awarded 10 years jail term to eight others which includes Sanjiv Kumar, the then Director of Primary Education, Chautala's former Officer on Special Duty Vidya
Dhar, both IAS officers, and Sher Singh Badshami, earlier Chautala's political advisor and currently a sitting MLA.
The remaining five, including a woman, who have been awarded 10 years jail term are Madan Lal
Kalra, Durga Dutt Pradhan, Bani Singh, Ram Singh and Daya Saini.
Apart from them, one convict has been handed five years and the rest 45 were given four years imprisonment.
The judge in his 34-page judgement said, "The enormity of the offences under consideration today can be appreciated from the fact that the conspiracy in question took in its sweep almost all the districts of
"The gravity of the offence further enhances in view of the reason that the brazenness with which the sacrosanct constitutional guarantee of equal opportunity in the matters of public employment to each citizen has been violated."
"Considering the enormity of the offences and the manner in which politician-bureaucrats nexus has resulted in depriving such a large number of candidates of their constitutional rights, I do not find any reason for leniency in sentencing those convicts who were masterminding the entire conspiracy or assisting them in execution of the same," the court also said.
During arguments on sentencing Chautala had pleaded for leniency on the ground of failing health as 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 had 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."
Citing Chautala's submission and medical records and his grounds for leniency, the judge said, "I find no reason not to believe the aforesaid submissions of the counsel for the convicts. However, these aspects are not relevant to the question of the quantum of sentence. The releavant points for considering the sentence are the circumstances attending the offence."
Earlier in the morning, much before the court was to pronounce the sentence, hundreds of INLD supporters clashed with police which used batons and teargas to stop them outside the complex where barricades were set up to prevent them from entering.
The supporters hurled bottles of petrol bombs into the court complex but none was injured.
The court also imposed a fine of Rs 2,000 on Chautala senior and Sanjiv Kumar, Rs 1,000 on Ajay
Chautala, Vidhya Dhar and Sher Singh, and Rs 1,200 on the other five sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. A fine of Rs 400 was imposed by the court on the remaining 45 convicts, including 16 women.
During the sentencing, Ajay Chautala's son had come to the court complex with
a large number of supporters.
Meanwhile, the court rejected the plea for leniency advanced by convict Vidya
Dhar, who has also been sentenced to ten year imprisonment, that he never
benefitted from the scam and that even his relatives were not selected.
"Those who host a lunch will have to pay the bill, even if they themselves
are on fast. Needless to say that they also serve, who stand and wait
silently," the judge said.
Others who were sentenced to ten years in jail -- M L Kalra, Durga Dutt, Bani
Singh, Daya Saini and Ram Singh -- had also argued that their role is only in
respect of their respective districts and therefore they cannot be compared with
those who planned the conspiracy.
"I disagree with the submission. If you have jumped in a cesspool, you are
in it. It does not matter whether you are in the centre or the corner of
it," the judge said.
The court also rejected the pleas for leniency put forth by convict Pushkar Mal
Verma and Durga Dutt Pradhan who claimed that they never prepared the false list
of candidates but later came with written submission as to how the incident took
place and admitted that they were under no pressure to sign the list but the
interview marks were filled later on.