New Delhi: 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 offenses 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 (JBT) teachers.
The senior Chautala was not present in the court because of his hospitalization 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 offense 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.
Haryana Parliamentary Affairs Minister Randeep Surjewala said that the case, with the conviction of Chautala Senior and 54 others, reached its logical end.
"It is a lesson for those holding high posts on the political as well as administrative side," he added.
Surjewala told reporters here, "I am pained at the scenes that took place outside the Delhi court today. With your lawlessness you can neither pressurise the law or judges nor turn the courts into a political akhara (battleground)."
He said that it is a myth of the INLD that the Congress has misused the CBI.
"They are mistaken. An IAS officer went to the Supreme Court when the NDA was in power and the apex court ordered the CBI probe," he said adding it is not the CBI which has given punishment to Chautala and others, but by a court after following the due process of law.
Answering a question on Congress targeting regional political leaders Surjewala said, "those who fear judicial process level such allegations."
"The Congress has never put pressure on the CBI which is an independent body," Surjewala said.
Haryana Congress said that one should not be surprised over the decision of the CBI court on the case concerning the former Chief Minister because the consequences of "turning a political party into a gang were expected."
Party spokesman Ran Singh Maan, who is former Chief Parliamentary Secretary, said that all those who have faith in the Constitution, should respect the decision of the court because in case one does not agree with the decision, the option to appeal in the higher court is open.
Meanwhile, an INLD spokesman said that the process of selection of teachers in 1999 was set in motion by the then Bansi Lal led Haryana Vikas Party (HVP) government before the Chautala led government took over on July 24, 1999.
"Since there was a shortage of teachers and Bansi Lal had disbanded the Subordinate Services Selection Board, the Chautala led cabinet decided to constitute District Selection Boards for recruiting the teachers which were done in a transparent manner," he said.
The INLD said that the party was fully prepared to face the situation, including the vilification campaign of the Congress and Kuldeep Bishnoi led HJC.