Former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, sentenced to 10 years' jail term in the JBT scam, contended before the Delhi high court on Thursday that he alone cannot be prosecuted in the case as the entire cabinet had taken the decision on the recruitment of teachers.
Appearing for Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) chief Chautala who is seeking suspension of sentence, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi submitted before Justice Mukta Gupta that the cabinet had twice held meetings in 1999 on the teachers recruitment policy but only the chief minister was held responsible.
"The trial court has failed to appreciate that it was the entire council of ministers which is responsible for a Cabinet decision and not any one minister."
"Only singling out Chautala merely because he is the chief minister is unfair," the lawyer added.
On January 22, the trial court had convicted and sentenced Chautala to ten years in jail for illegally recruiting 3,206 junior teachers 12 years ago.
The counsel also argued that CBI had made the case against Chautala relying on the testimony of co-accused Sanjiv Kumar, an IAS officer who the probe agency had already "discredited" before the Supreme Court in a PIL filed by Kumar.
"It is in the CBI record that he (Kumar) is a discredited man who lied in the Supreme Court.... But the agency had relied upon some of Kumar's statement against Chautala by adopting a pick and choose policy," the lawyer said.
The counsel also referred to the statement of a prosecution witness, a woman IAS officer, and said nowhere in her statement she said that she was under the pressure from chief minister for the recruitment of teachers on a large scale.
The lawyer also said that his client is 78-year-old and suffered from several ailments.
After perusing the medical records of Chautala, the court should suspend his sentence, he urged.
On the bail plea of Chautala, CBI would begin its argument on Monday.
The INLD chief, his MLA son Ajay Chautala and 53 others including two IAS officers were convicted on January 16 by the trial court for illegally recruiting the junior basic trained (JBT) teachers in Haryana in 2000.
The senior Chautala, who was held as the "main conspirator" of the scam by the court, was found guilty of cheating, forgery, using fake documents as genuine and conspiracy under the IPC and for abusing his official position under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA).