Senior Congress leader Rasheed Masood was on Tuesday sentenced to four years in jail in a corruption case, becoming the first legislator to lose his Rajya Sabha seat after a landmark Supreme Court verdict recently removed immunity for convicted lawmakers.
The 67-year-old former union minister was taken into custody immediately after the sentencing in a Delhi court and sent to Tihar jail.
Masood is effectively out of the electoral arena for 10 years, as the SC says a legislator will remain disqualified for a further six years from the date of his release, unless a higher court overturns both his conviction and sentence.
Special CBI judge JPS Malik — who had on September 19 held Masood guilty of fraudulently nominating undeserving candidates to MBBS seats allotted to Tripura in medical colleges across the country from the central pool while he was health minister in the VP Singh-led National Front government of 1990 — also fined him `60,000.
The sentencing comes a day after a Ranchi court convicted RJD chief Lalu Prasad and JD(U) leader Jagadish Sharma, both Lok Sabha members, in a fodder scam case. Their sentencing is scheduled for October 3, following which they too face disqualification.
Besides Masood, the court awarded four-year jail terms to former IPS officer Gurdial Singh and retired IAS officer Amal Kumar Roy, who was secretary to the then Tripura chief minister Sudhir Ranjan Majumdar. They were fined `1.5 lakh and `1 lakh, respectively.
Nine students, who fraudulently got admission and were found guilty of cheating, were given one-year sentences and fined `40,000 each.
Masood is a “lawmaker turned lawbreaker” who committed the crime after taking an oath to abide by the Constitution, which says all are equal before the law, CBI prosecutor VN Ojha said, opposing Masood’s plea for release on probation.
“I am innocent, 100% innocent... I’m certain the truth will come out one day,” a visibly shaken Masood said.
Two other students involved in the scam, including Masood’s nephew, were minors at the time and their case was transferred to the Juvenile Justice Board in January 2007.
Majumdar and his health minister, Kashi Ram Reang, were also accused but passed away during pendency of the trial.