Chautala, son get 10-year jail, supporters go on rampage

New Delhi, Jan 22 (IANS) In one of the harshest punishments handed down to a politician for corruption yet, a special court here sentenced former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala and son Ajay Chautala to 10 years jail each in a teachers' recruitment scam.

As soon as the sentence was pronounced, activists of Chautalas' Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) went on a rampage outside the court complex in Rohini area of north Delhi, hurling stones and crude bombs at police and in the court area. Police lobbed tear gas shells and baton-charged the crowds to disperse them.

Special CBI Judge Vinod Kumar, who last week convicted the 55 of the 62 people accused in the scam, sentenced the Chautalas and seven others to 10 years in jail each while one convict was given five years, and 45 others four years in jail.

"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.

Of the 62 people accused in the junior basic trained (JBT) teachers' hiring scam, six died during the trial and one was discharged during framing of charges.

Besides the Chautalas, Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Sanjiv Kumar, the then director of primary education, Chautala's former officer on special duty Vidya Dhar, also a former IAS officer, and political adviser Sher Singh Badshami, who is a sitting Haryana legislator, also were awarded 10 years in jail.

Four other education department officers also were given 10-year jail terms.

Chautala and his son Ajay, both sitting legislators in Haryana, were taken into custody Jan 16 after being convicted for the illegal recruitment of over 3,200 JBT teachers in the state.

The CBI formally charged the Chautalas and the others June 6, 2008, for their role in the scam that took place between 1999 and 2000 when Chautala was the chief minister.

The scam came to light when Sanjeev Kumar, who was pressurised by Chautala to change the list of selected candidates by fudging marks of certain favourites, approached the Supreme Court and submitted before it the list of the candidates originally selected for state employment.

The apex court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate the matter. The agency, in its charge sheet, said forged documents were used to appoint the teachers.

Sanjeev Kumar, who claimed to be a whistle-blower in the case, was also made an accused by the CBI.

Chautala, the son of former deputy prime minister Devi Lal, is leader of opposition in the Haryana assembly. He was the chief minister from 1999 to 2005. His second son, Abhay Singh Chautala, is also a legislator.

The conviction and sentencing could impact politics in Haryana, where assembly elections are due next year, as the Chautalas could be disqualified from contesting if their conviction is not suspended by a higher court.

The Representation of the People Act debars from contesting polls any person convicted of any offence and sentenced to more than two years' imprisonment from the date of conviction and for a further period of six years after the term ends.

The sentencing led to violence from around 2,000 Chautala supporters, who had gathered outside the Rohini court complex in north Delhi from early morning and started shouting slogans.

Their presence forced police to ban the entry of media, lawyers and others into the complex and the court room. Over 1,000 policemen were guarding the court complex, apprehending trouble from Chautala supporters.

"Many Chautala supporters tried to enter the court premises. The crowd calmed down for a while, but started throwing stones and crude bombs as soon as the ruling was delivered," a police official said. One of the protestors was injured in the police action.

After the rioting outside the court complex was controlled, the police took the convicted politicians and bureaucrats with them to Tihar Jail under tight security around 1 p.m.

Abhay Chautala said that they will appeal against the verdict in a higher court. "They (Chautalas) will come out clean. This is a conspiracy by the Congress through the CBI," he said.

Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda appealed for peace.

"All are equal for court, and we have faith in the judiciary. We will appeal to the people to maintain peace, Haryana is a peaceful state," Hooda, who is at present in Delhi, told reporters after the verdict.

Haryana Janhit Congress leader Kuldip Bishnoi welcomed the court verdict and sentencing.

"There is no future for INLD in Haryana now. This judgment will not only have an impact on Haryana but all over the country," he said.

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