New Delhi, Jan 22 (IANS) A Delhi court Tuesday awarded 10 years in jail to former Haryana chief minister and Indian National Lok Dal chief Om Prakash Chautala and his son Ajay Chautala in a teacher-recruitment scam.
Special CBI Judge Vinod Kumar sentenced the Chautalas and eight others to 10 years in jail while one convict was sentenced to five years in jail and 45 others four years in jail.
Of the 62 people accused in the junior basic training (JBT) teacher hiring scam, six died during the trial and one was discharged during framing of charges.
Besides the Chautalas, Sanjiv Kumar, the then director of primary education, Chautala's former officer on special duty Vidya Dhar and his political adviser Sher Singh Badshami were also handed down the 10-year jail terms.
Madan Lal Kalra, the then district primary education officer, Durga Dutt Pradhan, the then principal of a girls' government school, Ram Singh, the then deputy district education officer, and Bani Saini, the then principal of a government school, were also among those sentenced to 10 years in jail along with Daya Saini, the then assistant director of primary education.
Shortly after the sentence was pronounced, Chautala's supporters threw stones at the court complex.
The judge refused to take a lenient approach while awarding the sentence as pleaded by the accused on health grounds.
"Considering the enormity of the offences and the manner in which politician-bureaucrat 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 said.
It also refused to take a lenient view of Sanjiv Kumar, the whistle-blower who was later found involved in the scam, awarding him a 10-year sentence too, on parity with other convicts.
However, the court noted that "these convicts had been truthful during the trial".
"They were aware they had committed a serious mistake in their life, but their conscience did not permit them to speak falsehood before the court, their moral values like guiding lamp for them."
"During the entire trial, they were truthful and courageous despite the fact that they knew that by being truthful, they were inviting their conviction which may entail a long term."
The court also said the accused had fully cooperated with the CBI during the investigation.
"They came up truthfully before this court. A few hesitant convicts soon followed them."
Chautala and his son, both legislators from Haryana, were taken into custody Jan 16 after being convicted for the illegal recruitment of over 3,000 JBT teachers in the state.
The court had earlier found prima facie evidence against the Chautalas and 53 others.
The CBI charged the Chautalas and the others June 6, 2008, for their role in the scam that took place between 1999 and 2000 when Om Prakash Chautala was the Haryana chief minister.
Over 3,000 teachers were to be recruited in the state and Chautala pressurised a senior official, Sanjiv Kumar, to change the list of selected candidates by fudging the marks of certain favourites.
Later, Sanjiv Kumar went to the Supreme Court and submitted before it the list of the candidates originally selected. He also alleged that money had changed hands in the recruitment.
The Supreme Court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the matter, especially the bribery charges.
The agency, in its charge sheet, said forged documents were used to appoint the teachers. It also made Sanjeev Kumar an accused.
The Chautalas and others were held guilty of offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA). The court framed charges against them under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating), 467 (forgery), 468 (forgery for cheating) and 471 (using as genuine a forged document) of the IPC and provisions of the PCA.
Chautala, the son of former deputy prime minister Devi Lal, is leader of opposition in the Haryana assembly.