Delhi HC stays Jaya Jaitly’s 4-year jail term in graft case
A trial court on Thursday sentenced three people -- Jaitly, her erstwhile party colleague Gopal Pacherwal and retired Major General (retd) SP Murgai -- tor four-year rigorous imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on each of them while convicting them for criminal conspiracy and corruption.Updated: Jul 31, 2020, 06:41 IST
The Delhi High Court on Thursday stayed an order passed earlier in the day by the trial court sentencing former Samta Party leader Jaya Jaitly to four years imprisonment in connection with a corruption case dating back to 2001.
A trial court on Thursday sentenced three people -- Jaitly, her erstwhile party colleague Gopal Pacherwal and retired Major General (retd) SP Murgai -- tor four-year rigorous imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on each of them while convicting them for criminal conspiracy and corruption. The court also directed them to surrender by 5 pm the same day.
Even as Pacherwal’s counsel sought time for his client to surrender, Jaitly got relief from the HC. Later in the evening, the trial court also granted time to Murgai time till August 3 to surrender.
Justice Suresh Kait suspended the sentence after Jaitly, through her counsel Aditya Vijay Kumar, moved the Delhi HC appealing the conviction and sentence.
The case in qustion was registered on the basis of a sting, Operation West End, conducted by news portal tehelka.com in 2000, purportedly exposing alleged corruption in defence deals. The Central Bureau of Investigation submitted a charge sheet against Jaitly and others in 2006.
According to the prosecution, Jaitly entered a criminal conspiracy with Murgai, Pacherwal and Surendra Kumar Surekha in 2001. She obtained Rs 2 lakh as illegal gratification from one Mathews Samuel ( a representative of a fictitious firm MS International Westland, London), the agency said. In truth, Samuel was a journalist.
On Thursday, while passing the order on sentence, the court said that in “total disregard to the positions they were holding and their social status, they conspired with each other to assist Samuel in pushing its product Hand Held Thermal Imagers (HHTI) into the Indian Army by exercising personal influence upon the concerned officers in the Ministry of Defense, particularly the then Union Defense Minister” George Fernandes.
“By their act, they compromised the entire defence system of the country. It is a crime with very wide and huge repercussion for the entire nation and thus cannot be dealt with leniently. For their petty gains, the convicts sought to assist the induction of a product of an unknown fictitious company into the Indian Army, which if done, would have made the Army immensely vulnerable and handicapped in the wake of an enemy attack. The very existence of our country would have come under threat. It was no less than an attack on the independence of our country,” the court said.
It added: “In the opinion of this Court, there should be zero tolerance towards corruption in defence procurement deals as these have a direct bearing upon independence and sovereignty of our country. Hence, the crime which these convicts have committed is of highest degree. They certainly do not deserve any mercy. They deserve the harshest sentence. Showing any kind of mercy towards the convicts would be a mockery of justice and sure to excite the fury of the society at large,” the judge said in its order.
It said that the “virus of corruption has engulfed the entire fabric of our society, is becoming a major obstacle in the growth and development of our nation”.
Reacting to the HC order, Jaitly’s counsel Aditya Vijay Kumar said that it came as a relief that court stayed the sentence after it found merit in their position.
Advocate Vikram Panwar, representing Murgai, said that he too would move to the Delhi High Court against the judgment and sentence.