In a judgement that could have electoral ramifications in Haryana, former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala and his son Ajay Chautala were on Tuesday
sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for corruption amidst scenes of violence by his supporters in a Delhi court complex.
Special CBI Judge Vinod Kumar, who last week had convicted the Chautalas and 53 others, including two IAS officers, for corruption in a teachers' recruitment scam and other charges, today handed them varying jail terms.
78-year-old Chautala senior, a five-time former chief minister, and his son 51-year-old Ajay Chautala 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.
Unfazed by the violence outside, the judge read out the order of sentencing as Chautala's supporters thronged the court complex threw stones and crude bombs and clashed with police who resorted to lathi charge and use of tear gas in a bid to restore order.
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.
Apart from the Chautalas, the court has awarded ten years imprisonment to Sanjiv Kumar, the then Director of Primary Education, Chautala's former Officer on Special Duty Vidya Dhar, both IAS officers, and political advisor to the then Haryana CM Sher Singh Badshami, curently a sitting MLA.
All the 55 convicts have been convicted and sentenced 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.
Apart from the five main accused, four others including a woman have been awarded 10 years jail term, one has been given five years and the rest 45 given four years sentence.
Earlier in the morning, much before the court was to pronounce the sentence, hundreds of supporters of Indian National Lok Dal today clashed with police which used batons and teargas to control them outside the court where barricades were set up to prevent them from entering.
The supporters hurled bottles filled with flammable spirits into the court complex but none was injured. The supporters had gathered outside the complex in the early hours and clashed with police after it prevented them from entering the court complex. The police used batons and teargas to control the supporters.
Security has been tightened around the complex and entry has been restricted in the court. The court work was also affected and lawyers faced problems getting in.
On January 16, the court had held 78-year-old Om Prakash Chautala, his son Ajay Chautala and 53 others guilty of illegally recruiting 3,206 junior basic trained (JBT) teachers in the state in 2000.
Meanwhile, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda today appealed for peace as supporters of former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala staged violent protests over the 10-year jail sentence given to him and his son in a corruption case.
One was discharged by the court at the time of framing charges.
"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 presently in Delhi, told reporters after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Rohini gave its ruling on the teachers' recruitment scam.
"There are legal processes, if anyone has objection they can follow legal procedures," he added.
Over 600 supporters of Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) chief Chautala and his legislator son Ajay gathered outside the court in Rohini and tried to enter the premises of the court. Delhi Police fired teargas shells, used batons and water cannons to disperse them.
INLD legislator Col. Bir Singh said the central government had manipulated the CBI and Chautala was innocent.
"Several former CBI directors have accepted that CBI works under the pressure of central government. The case of bribery has not been proved here... it is only recruitment of teachers, and none of them have been fired from their job so far," he said.
"We will go to the high court and, if needed, the Supreme Court," he said.
"The supporters are peace loving. Delhi Police resorted to lathi-charge and we condemn it," he said.
Haryana Janhit Congress leader Kuldip Bishnoi welcomed the court decision.
"I welcome the decision of the court. 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.
He also ruled out the Chautala family getting any sympathy from the people.
"There will be no sympathy factor. What kind of sympathy will they get? They are going to jail for corruption," he said.
Chautala and others were convicted for bribery and tampering with lists to accommodate their favourites and those who had paid money to get recruited as teachers in Haryana's government schools. The recruitment was done for over 3,200 teachers in 1999-2000, when Chautala was chief minister.
(with inputs from IANS)